Costica Bradatan, “Philosophy as an Art of Living”
All things considered, we should not lose sight of the fact that what I’ve described above is only one way of conceiving the relation between a philosopher’s work and her life. While predominant among the ancient philosophers, as well as among some modern ones (Montaigne and Nietzsche, for example), the understanding of philosophy as an “art of living” is far from characterizing mainstream academic philosophy in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. Now philosophy is primarily a “job.” When they are done with it, philosophers don’t take it home with them; they leave philosophy at the office, behind locked doors. The work they produce, outstanding as it may be, is not supposed to change their lives. Today philosophical conversions are regarded with suspicion and strongly discouraged; if they do happen, they tend to be dismissed. The philosopher’s work, on the one hand, and her biography, on the other, are not to be conflated; they belong to two different worlds…
However, things are not always that simple. In 1927 Martin Heidegger published Sein und Zeit, one of the most influential philosophical works of the twentieth century; some say the most important one. Only a few years later Heidegger joined the Nazi Party. His political involvement is often cited as one of the most serious mistakes a philosopher can ever make. We are shocked, and rightly so. And, yet, where does our shock come from? From the fact that some German called Martin Heidegger joined the Nazi Party or rather from the fact that a great philosopher by that name did it? If the latter, why exactly are we upset? Isn’t there at work, in our disappointment with Heidegger’s lamentable political options, an expectation, if an obscure one, that a philosopher’s life should be lead philosophically?
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