George Andersen

Philosophical Counselor

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30 October
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Wise words for the soul

This is a photo of an art work made by the Australian artist Asphyxia in 2015 and posted on her website.

“Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.” – Epicurus


12 November

Nobility of Feeling

Cover of the book “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” sold by Amazon.

In the aphorism 131 included in his book “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”, Baltasar Gracian advises us to be noble in our feelings towards others.

“Nobility of Feeling

There is a certain distinction of the soul, a highmindedness prompting to gallant acts, that gives an air of grace to the whole character. It is not found often, for it presupposes great magnanimity. Its chief characteristic is to speak well of an enemy, and to act even better towards him. It shines brightest when a chance comes of revenge; not alone does it let the occasion pass, but it improves it by using a complete victory in order to display unexpected generosity. It is a fine stroke of policy, nay, the very acme of statecraft. It makes no pretence to victory, for it pretends to nothing, and while obtaining its deserts it conceals its merits.”

20 September

Union of qualities in character

Cover of the book “Theaetetus” sold by Amazon.

“… he has a quickness of apprehension which is almost unrivalled, and he is exceedingly gentle, and also the most courageous of men; there is a union of qualities in him such as I have never seen in any other, and should scarcely have thought possible; for those who, like him, have quick and ready and retentive wits, have generally also quick tempers; they are ships without ballast, and go darting about, and are mad rather than courageous; and the steadier sort, when they have to face study, prove stupid and cannot remember. Whereas he moves surely and smoothly and successfully in the path of knowledge and enquiry; and he is full of gentleness, flowing on silently like a river of oil; at his age, it is wonderful.”

Plato’s “Theaetetus” translated by Benjamin Jowett (The Internet Classics Archive, as of October 18th, 2014)

In Plato’s “Theaetetus”, Theodorus describes Theaetetus to Socrates as being:

  • gentle
  • courageous
  • intelligent
  • even tempered
  • confident
  • smooth
  • flowing silently

A union of such qualities is not only desirable in character but also attainable. How? Through constant development, refinement, and harmonization of the virtues or characteristics that are part of our character.

04 August

Philosophers are mistake specialists

Image by Ashley Mackenzie

Since Socrates, there have been times when philosophers have been perceived as trouble makers by mainstream society. The courage to think, the courage to ask questions, the courage to challenge the norms were perceived as an attack against authority, as a way of stirring spirits, or as a gratuitous display of futile pedantry.

Instead of seeing philosophers as trouble makers, why not see them as “mistake specialists”?  In his latest book Daniel Dennett elaborates:

“We philosophers are mistake specialists… While other disciplines specialize in getting the right answers to their defining questions, we philosophers specialize in all the ways there are of getting things so mixed up, so deeply wrong, that nobody is even sure what the right questions are, let alone the answers. Asking the wrong questions risks setting any inquiry off on the wrong foot. Whenever that happens, this is a job for philosophers!  Philosophy – in every field of inquiry – is what you have to do until you figure out what questions you should have been asking in the first place.”

Daniel Dennett.  Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014