The “solution” to the metaphysical problem of existence is to be found in thevaluesarising within the conscious mind, not in the analysis of the latter’s nature. The antique Greeks are still our models in philosophy because they were concerned with values, not with analysis of the structure of the mind, which was always a secondary consideration with them. The human condition requires a value-rich metaphysics, without which human beings are merely an out-of-control animal species, on the verge of destroying the milieu in which they live. IfHomo sapiensdoes not respond to the problem of his existence through creating a metaphysical consciousness, he will become an abortive entity who has missed its purpose. It is not enough for him to survive in the midst of family, offices, honors or possessions, he must develop his mind as something more than a tool for dominating his social and material milieu. This reality transcends all other realities for him. However, nature has always been profligate of individuals in achieving its goals and the human species is no exception.

The process of mental maturation is dependent on experiences that make possible the deepening of consciousness, although they do not guarantee it. Experiences can be had at every level of existence, ranging from climbing Mt. Everest to reading Plato. The common denominator is increasing depth of consciousness. The oracles of antiquity: “know yourself,” “become what you are,” “living according to one’s physis,” all were concerned with deepening of consciousness.

Two indicators of the metaphysical need of individuals are the popular appeal of religious sectarianism and “New Age” spirituality. By and large, however, one must look to his own self for metaphysical development. Experiencing a writing or a teaching is one thing, subordinating one’s mind to them is another. If Christ is permitted to enter one’s interior life, he should not be permitted to monopolize it. A still valid criterion for judging the value of contemporary movements is the one Socrates used in judging the Sophists – do they make money from their teaching? Philosophy and commerce are incompatible activities.

Glorification of the unconscious mind, a concept first expressed by Schopenhauer and brought onto the stage of public awareness by Freud, has undermined the values of philosophy. But the unconscious mind is a contradiction in terms; if a thought is unconscious, it is not part of the mind, which necessarily implies consciousness.

The emergence of a thought or idea into consciousness is a creative act of the first order that marks the nature of the human condition. To say that one is “unconsciously” aware of something is like saying a fertilized ovum qualifies asHomo sapiens.The metaphysical fact of human development is the emergence of a being possessed of consciousness. If awareness is not present in the conscious state, it forever remains in the void of non-being.

Philosophy has to do with probing the problem of existence for those individuals who are aware of the problem in their own self. What it decidedly is not is a scholarly discipline analogous to chemistry, physics or mathematics. The imprisonment of philosophy within academic structures has resulted in its disfiguration so that its nature has been radically changed.. Philosophy today has been transformed into two distinct subjects; a) a subdivision of history concentrating on the study of philosophers or philosophic movements and b) a branch of theoretical psychology analyzing the nature of cognition. Both of these are topics deserving of a certain amount of study but they are not philosophy.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom, it is a desire for metaphysical knowledge that is meaningless in the context of objective scientific methodology. Scholars are not philosophers and philosophers not scholars, although there may be some overlap. But as one does not look to electricians for models of what it is to be a neurologist, so one cannot look to scholars for models in philosophy.

Philosophical activity can be regarded as a sign of nature transcending its biological limits. If this be mysticism, to paraphrase the American Revolutionary hero Patrick Henry, then opponents are free to make the most of it. The hallmarks of the philosopher are metaphysical intelligence, strength of mind and independence of the societal milieu.

“I searched out myself” may be taken as the guiding principle of philosophy and the password to the philosophic life. The polar opposite of the philosopher is the scholar who searches out the paraphernalia of history in order to arrange them according to his inclinations. The antique world had its models in this area also but they were clearly distinguished from philosophy.

Richard Schain
May 2003