There are many kinds of scholars.
Mathematicians, economists, politicians, physicists, linguists, etc.
It is easy to presume what kind of work they do from their titles, isn’t it?
But, as far as philosophers are concerned, most of us don’t know what they do.
What kind of people are philosophers? What kind of work do they actually do?
Here, I present how Socrates thinks about the trait of philosophers.
- We must accept as agreed this trait of the philosophical nature, that it is ever enamored of the kind of knowledge which reveals to them something of that essence which is eternal, and is not wandering between the two poles of generation and decay.(485B)
- The true lover of knowledge must, from childhood up, be most of all a striver after truth in every form.(485D)
By the way, what becomes of a person who devotes himself/herself to philosophy? Does he/she become rich? Does he/she get status or fame? Socrates thinks as follows.
- When it comes to facts he sees that of those who turn to philosophy, not merely touching upon it to complete their education and dropping it while still young, but lingering too long in the study of it, the majority become cranks, not to say rascals, and those accounted the finest spirits among them are still rendered useless to society by the pursuit which you recommend.(487)
As Socrates says, if we devotes ourselves to philosophy too much, we can’t expect that we would be honored, can we? On the contrary, we might be regarded as “useless to society”.
But, who are to be blamed? Philosophers or others? Socrates says as follows.
- You are right in affirming that the finest spirits among the philosophers are of no service to the multitude. But bid him blame for this uselessness, not the finer spirits, but those who do not know how to make use of them. (489B)
By the way, when we study philosophy, what kind of benefits we get? Money can’t be expected. Fame can’t be expected, neither. Then why should we study philosophy? Let us see what Socrates says.
- While they are lads and boys they should occupy themselves with an education and culture suitable to youth, and while their bodies are growing to manhood take right good care of them, thus securing a basis and a support for the intellectual life. But with the advance of age, when the soul begins to attain its maturity, they should make its exercises more severe, and when the bodily strength declines and they are past the age of political and military service, then at last they should be given free range of pasture and do nothing but philosophize, except incidentally, if they are to live happily, and, when the end has come, crown the life they have lived with a consonant destiny in that other world. (498B)
I personally don’t know about the other world, but I can say that we would be happier when we study philosophy in that we would be able to see life more clearly.