What Does Philosophy Teach? the Difference Between Knowing Things and How to Think

A warning for schools that might not think philosophy is important

Heraclitus, fr. 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει

Dio Chrysostom, Orat. 70.10

“Knowing these things does not make a person’s soul better or preserve it from mistakes. But someone who pursues philosophy and has a share of its learning could never rebel against the best things, nor, because he neglected them, would he prefer something shameful or common instead, or choose to be lazy, or to eat constantly and be drunk.

For to fail to wonder at this things and to cleanse your soul of desire for them is the opposite—instead, philosophy is learning how to hate them and dismiss them. Nevertheless, there’s nothing to stop someone from claiming to be a philosopher and to be an impostor and deceive himself and others”

ὸ γὰρ ταῦτα ἐπίστασθαι οὐδὲν ποιεῖ βελτίω τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ψυχὴν οὐδὲ ἀποτρέπει τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων· φιλοσοφίᾳ δὲ προσέχων τις καὶ μετασχὼν τούτου τοῦ μαθήματος οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἀποσταίη τῶν βελτίστων, οὐδὲ τούτων ἀμελήσας αἰσχρόν τι καὶ φαῦλον προέλοιτ᾿ ἂν πράττειν οὐδὲ ἀργεῖν καὶ ὀψοφαγεῖν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι. τὸ γὰρ ταῦτα μὴ θαυμάζειν καὶ τὴν τούτων ἐπιθυμίαν ἐξαιρεῖν τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ τοὐναντίον εἰς μῖσος αὐτῶν καὶ κατάγνωσιν προάγειν φιλοσοφία ἐστίν. τὸ δέ γε φῆσαι φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ ἀλαζονεύεσθαι καὶ αὑτὸν ἐξαπατῆσαι καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους οὐδὲν ἴσως κωλύει.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 5.4

“The first thing philosophy promises is a shared communion, humanity and friendship with others. Our differences from others will keep us from this promise. We must examine that those very values through which we hope to create admiration do not become laughable and hateful”

Hoc primum philosophia promittit, sensum communem,humanitatem et congregationem. A qua professione dissimilitudo nos separabit. Videamus, ne ista, per quae admirationem parare volumus, ridicula et odiosa sint.


Gnomologium Vaticanum 289

“Erasistratos [the doctor] used to say that medicine was philosophy’s sister: one treats maladies of the spirit, the other treats those of the body.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς τὴν ἰατρικὴν τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἔφησεν ἀδελφὴν εἶναι· τὴν μὲν γὰρ τὰ ψυχικά, τὴν δὲ τὰ σωματικὰ θεραπεύειν ἀῤῥωστήματα.


Epictetus, Encheiridion 22

“If you desire to study philosophy, prepare to be mocked because many people will ridicule you”

Εἰ φιλοσοφίας ἐπιθυμεῖς, παρασκευάζου αὐτόθεν ὡς καταγελασθησόμενος, ὡς καταμωκησομένων σου πολλῶν

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Laurentius de Voltolina

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