Wisdom and Hydrodynamics

01 Apr 2007, Posted by Alexandros in Writings

The good life is a correct balance between know-that and know-how. Knowing in an intellectual way is simply not enough for a full understanding and embodiment of wisdom. Theory without practice is impotent though we shouldn’t forget that practice without theory can give birth to monsters.

That doesn’t mean that a man cannot swim in life unless he knows the theory of hydrodynamics. But someone proficient in hydrodynamics can do things no Olympic swimmer ever could. That however, is irrelevant when it comes to the good life, broadly conceived. When it comes to that, it is more important to know how to swim well than to know hydrodynamics. The problem we have today is that people know hydrodynamics and have forgotten how to swim – if they had ever learnt to do so.

You can’t swim in life unless you get in the water. Contemporary philosophers are professors of hydrodynamics. That is why they cannot teach anybody how to swim well in the oceans of life. Poor students of philosophy, they enroll in philosophy hoping they will learn to swim and they are made to believe that hydrodynamics is all one needs to know. That is why contemporary philosophers can even seem incompetent when it comes to everyday life, whereas they should have been its graceful artists.

“Critics are to painters what ornithologists are to birds” Birds fly, painters paint. Critics criticize and ornithologists analyse and observe. Contemporary philosophy is in the same predicament. Instead of living life, they analyse and observe it. They cannot dance like the philosophers of the past. While ancient philosophy was learning how to fly, contemporary philosophy merely analyses what flight is.

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