With a view to saying something about the
ways in which philosophers go about their business I attempt the following
things. First, I describe briefly two competing philosophical
schools of thought, or traditions of philosophy: the Anglo-American analytic
and the continental phenomenological. Second, I draw
a distinction between first order activities, and second order practices;
the former is what philosophers, to a greater or lesser extent, all concern
themselves with; the second is the particular school or tradition which
they follow. Third, I concentrate specifically on the first
order activities, in the belief that it is the sum total of these which
define philosophy and the philosopher's task, rather than the second order
practice which has tended to be the focus for whatever defines philosophy.
These first-order activities are, in the opening analysis, taken largely
from Hadot who bases his account on the works of Philo Judaeus. For Hadot,
these first-order activities are defined under the heading 'spiritual exercises.'
I conclude with a quotation from Wittgenstein which provides a single,
(but perhaps unsatisfactory) terminus to the thesis advanced in this paper.
INTRODUCTION : The Philosophical OutlookMy overall purpose here is to begin a definitional account of what it means to be a philosopher, and hence, to engage in philosophical activity. In this way some idea of what constitutes a specifically philosophical method might emerge, a method perhaps distinct from that found in other disciplines and activities. Now, there are various ways of dividing up philosophical positions or traditions, depending on their respective methodologies or concerns over content. One might be an analytic philosopher, or a phenomenologist, or an existentialist . Or, one might be a Thomist or a Platonist or an Aristotelian, or some reconstituted version of all three. One could, conceivably still be a Cartesian modernist of sorts, or an Hegelian idealist, a Derridean deconstructionist, a Lyotardian postmodernist, or a Blondian post-secularist . Even more specifically, one could be a Kantian epistemologist, a Wittgensteinian linguist, a meta-ethicist, or a utilitarian, an emotivist or an intuitionist and so on. The list of possiblities is almost endless, given the various nuances derived from each particular philosopher or each general tradition and branch. With what might each of the above be concerned? What follows is a brief account of only two broad traditions, as they are are largely distinguished from each other geographically as well as methodologically and conceptually : the Anglo-American analytic and the continental phenomenological. The account, of course, constitutes a massively, (and, therefore, crudely) compressed version of the two traditions, and the compression inevitably distorts the rich complexity of both; but hopefully the benefits of brevity are worth some of the costs. In any case, the intention is not to sketch the entirety of the traditions, merely to point to some of the more obvious problems when a single or uniform definition of philosophical activity is being attempted.
Two competing traditions : Anglo-American Analytic and Continental Phenomenological
Arguably, the continental tradition is a little more diverse in its growth and development. In essence the tradition began, historically, with Kant, whose philosophical concerns were also, principally, epistemological. For Kant, the knowledge we, as subjects, have of the world, as an external object, is knowledge of how the world appears to us. Therefore, we can only ever fully experience and know the world and its contents as phenomena. However, the formally recognised school of phenomenology is generally traced back to Husserl, for whom philosophy, in the twentieth century, had all but lost its way. Hence, he sought to ground it in a proper investigation of the world as it appears to us, without reference to a world behind or beyond the one we inhabit. The existential and linguistic concerns of the phenomenological movement involve a deeply complex configuration of German idealism and romanticism and French social and political critique.
A second broad strand of continental philosophy is that concerned with the postmodern imperative, a wide-ranging attack on the overarching ambition of all modernist philosophy, but in particular, the analytic project of trying to mirror nature in a singular, neutral and scientifically-accurate fashion. It combines a number of both congruent and competing theories and positions from deconstruction to difference, but its principal thesis is that there are no longer any metanarratives, any grand and totalizing narratives or stories to be told about the world and the truths corresponding to it. Instead, there is simply an infinite sum of petit narratives, all vying for recognition in a cultural and inter-cultural game of patriarchy, power and politics. Overall, the continental tradition, in terms of style and content, owes much of its allegiance to literature, art and psychoanalysis, rather than to science and mathematics, the principal distinguishing features of the analytic tradition.
These two broad characterisations help
to distinguish the current, competitive nature of the discipline. At the
analytic extremity one's method is exclusively to do with the reduction
of all human conduct and understanding to the precise formulae of symbolic
logic, whilst at the extremity of the continental tradition, one's method
is to do with the poetic celebration of human differences in a mystical,
metaphoric or disjunctional manner. However, whatever the tradition, the
method or the style and content, it is becoming increasingly clear that
philosophy, as a composite discipline, has begun to align itself with the
bureaucratization of intellectual inquiry, much to its discredit. Teaching
and learning, scholarship, research and inquiry have tended to become subordinated
to an ill-conceived project initiated by educational mandarins who maintain
an implicit belief in a model of efficiency, effectiveness and value for
money which is universally applicable and quantitatively measurable
. And so today, Schopenhauer's words appear to be even more
relevant  :
"Generally speaking university philosophy is mere fencing in front of a mirror. In the last analysis, its goal is to give students opinions which are to the liking of the minister who hands out the Chairs...As a result, this state-financed philosophy makes a joke of philosophy."
Traditions and Second-Order Practices
However, the same is not quite true of philosophy. Philosophy has no obvious content of its own, no clearly-discernible aim which governs its course, nor seemingly any identifiable reason why anyone should wish to pursue it. There are no empirically-based fact-finding missions which it must support and no set routines for teaching nor learning, as one is never quite sure at the outset if there is anything either to teach or to learn. So, one way in which it gains some semblance of purpose is to look around for first-order activities and practices on which to fix its questioning gaze. The purpose then becomes second-order in nature : to subject to rigorous scrutiny all of the concepts and terms, practices, rules and regulations by which other first-order activities and practices are governed. Philosophy, as a second-order practice on this view, is wholly uncommitted to, and unconcerned with the first-order activity under inspection; instead it is simply concerned to try to understand and make sense of the language-game of that first-order activity. It is concerned, in as distinterested way as possible with what it is that is going on under the umbrella term of fishing or geography, rugby or farming .
Unfortunately, this is the means by which philosophers have sometimes promoted their discipline to an unwarranted olympian position. The assumption is that philosophy, as an elite, second-order inquiry, can provide the grand narrative or the distinct method by which all other first-order disciplines and activities can get clear about themselves, their behaviours, beliefs and identities. Now, although philosophy may assist in the clarification of language about certain first-order activities, it is presumptuous for it to claim ultimate authority as an over-arching practice, or supreme meta-discipline, which clears up all the intellectual problems embedded in primary pursuits.
By contrast, the claim here is that philosophy
philosophy is not this grand second-order practice, but is itself a first-order
activity. And it is the various philosophical traditions, and their discourses,
which have gradually transformed philosophy into the meta-discipline it
sometimes claims for its identity and justification
transformed the philosopher into a) the intellectual personification of
whatever tradition to which she might, however tenuously, be attached,
and b) the embodiment of a universalist, academic problem-solver.
However, contrary to this, a philosopher cannot be identified by virtue
of the tradition or second-order practice to which she may belong because,
ultimately, the philosopher is atopos - unclassifiable. In the Theaetetus
Plato frequently describes Socrates as atopos - or out of place
His behaviour, his conduct, his intellectual disposition and his constant
quizzical stance were all out of kilter with the prevailing culture. His
first-order activities never, somehow, seemed to fit. Hence, given that
he was out of place, it were better for society that he was also out of
the way. And so, to conclude this first, major claim : philosophy
philosophy is a first-order activity and the various philosophical traditions
and discourses are simply derivative second-order practices.
Philosophy as a set of first-order activities.
In so far as these first-order activities
are concerned I take my cue from the French philosopher and historian Pierre
Hadot. In a number of articles  Hadot has carefully mapped out
the kinds of activities, habits, behaviours and undertakings
which philosophers in Graeco-Roman antiquity engaged in on a daily basis,
and which lent form, meaning and substance to their lives. Hadot calls
these activities spiritual exercises for a number of reasons, the
first few of which appear to bear no relationship to the word "spiritual"
at all, but the reasoning soon becomes clear. First, these activities or
exercises marked out the kinds of bodily behaviours the self ought
to initiate and enact, and secondly, they prescribed the kinds of mental
states, conditions and dispositions which ought to accompany such behaviours
and actions. The central point is that both physical actions and mental
states are of equivalent value when engaging in the exercises, for there
was an implicit understanding in much Greek philosophical inquiry about
the unitary nature of the relationship between mind and body, soul and
self. Far from being wholly dualistic, as much subsequent scholarship has
maintained, ancient Greek inquiry recognised only too well that mind and
body are, in one sense, utterly indivisible, and a brief analysis of the
terms spirit and soul will help to show why this is so.
Soul and Spirit
So, on this understanding the spiritual life comes to mean the all-embracing concept of a material or physical body having been given the means of experiencing self, others and the world through the mysterious processes of breath, motion, and autonomy allied to the twin marvels of thought and action. Arguably, it is only with Plato that some kind of substantive dualism is created, but even there, scholarship may be fooled as a consequence of examining much of Platonic thought through the misty lense of over a thousand years of Christian philosophy, and over three hundred years of Cartesian reasoning.
How one lives a life then is no small matter,
as Socrates so clearly observed. In living a life we must pay attention
to the small detail of our daily existence, and in so doing, the larger
canvas which, over the years characterises our self and gives some notion
of identity, will effectively take care of itself. In other words, if we
attend to the first-order activities, the second order practices will gradually
emerge and take shape, not of their own accord as if they were divorced
from the first-order activities, but it is they which emerge from such
activities, not vice-versa.
Philo reclarified by Hadot
"One of (the) lists enumerates the following elements : research (zetesis), thorough investigation (skepsis); reading (anagnosis), listening (akroasis), attention (prosoche), self-mastery, (enkrateia), and indifference to indifferent things . The other names successively : reading, meditations (meletai), therapies of the passions, remembrance of good things, self-mastery and the accomplishment of duties." 
Research inevitably involves many of the remaining exercises. Without the thorough examination of what has gone before, and of what is currently open to view, research cannot get underway. The logician who does not conduct a thorough examination of the relevance of all of the connectives or logical constants will be unable to proceed, and the ontologist who fails to map out all of the definitional concerns of Being will be at a loss as to where to go next. Reading, listening and attention all go together as aspects of the continual task of investigating thoroughly prior to, or parallel with, the activity of research. The exercise of thorough examination recalls that distinctive Socratic pronouncement on the unexamined life not being worth living. Self-examination is a natural precursor to the exploration of problems which impinge upon the self.
The injunction is an ancient one, and Philo's recommended exercise of self-mastery is only made possible after careful self-examination. The Delphic inscription, "Know Thyself"  , is a necessary preliminary to the mastery of that enigma - the self - which one gradually attempts to understand and to know. However, the task will always be an incomplete one as Heraclitus avers : "If you travel every path you will not find the limits of the soul, so deep is its account." . Nonetheless, the continual exercise of mastering oneself can only occur if one is aware of what it is that one is attempting to master. It is partly a matter, as Aristotle maintained, of reigning in the irrational appetites of the soul, and encouraging, instead, the rational faculties to temper or modify the seemingly irrational wants and desires, whilst seeing to the needs of, and nutrients for, a positive bodily existence. If philosophy is to become something other than self-conceit, then self-examination and self-mastery must accompany the philosophical quest. Socrates's re-telling of Diotima's disquisition on beauty and desire is a clear example of the means for instructing the self in this respect. This mastery of self is synonymous with one of the four cardinal virtues, that of self-restraint or sophrosune. Moreover, it connects, logically, with the therapies of the passions and the indifference to indifferent things. Unfulfilled desires produce frustration and longing; tragic events prompt despair and sorrow, or anger and bitterness. External events which prompt certain passions are, ultimately, indifferent as to the individual self who suffers. It matters not at all the identity of the self; tragedy, in one form or another, generally visits everyone. The Greek tragedians understood this only too well. Their works were formal public instructions in the moral art of teaching about that particular passion which needs to be mastered : pride or hubris. However, if the Gods whoever they are, or if the cosmos, however it is ordered, dictates that some tragedy must befall the individual irrespective of the self-mastery of pride, if this is the case, then indifference to this fate about which the self can do little, is surely the best policy. This ought to be especially true of the philosopher whose sole concern is the pursuit of truth whether or not that truth is satisfying to the individual. According to an entry in the Codex Vaticanus Graecus . Xanthippe, Socrates's wife, was once asked what was the most extraordinary and blessed aspect of Socrates's life. By all accounts she replied, "The fact that he doesn't change his expression in prosperity or adversity." Truths, generally, are uncomfortable entities; therefore, to regard them all with equanimity is an attractive goal. Internal desires which produce constricting and disabling passions are clearly targets for therapy. Anything which impedes the regular exercise of research, thorough investigation and the contributory disciplines of reading, listening and attention, must be treated with seriousness; the intention being to deny these passions the licence to wreak havoc on an otherwise purposeful existence.
As suggested, these activities, practised if not on a daily basis, then at least on a regular basis, contribute to the flourishing of the moral and intellectual virtues or human excellences described and analysed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. For Aristotle, the moral virtues such as courage, friendliness, truthfulness and so on are cultivated and developed through constant habit, beginning perhaps with an externally imposed discipline until the habits are so ingrained that they become a matter of self-discipline. The intellectual virtues, on the other hand, such as deliberation, judgment, understanding, and practical wisdom, are generally fashioned through education and instruction. Each of us, according to Aristotle, is in possession of these excellences in their potential state; it is only through constant use, practice and perfection that they become actual virtues of qualities of mind and character. For Hadot, the above exercises characterise a life of askesis . This is not to be understood in its Greek-Christian sense of absolute asceticism, a view given added austerity and purity through the Latin Christianity of Ignatius of Loyola and his exercitium spirituale. Instead, the original meaning of the term askesis related to the sum total of those exercises, both mental and physical, which were understood to be associated with the pneuma and psuche of the individual. Moreover, the individual psuche and pneuma were somehow inexplicably connected with the animating principles and breath of life shared by all other persons within the living community. Hence, for the Stoics in particular, what unites us as living beings is far greater than what separates us as cultural beings. Hence, the Stoics advocated a fairly rigorous form cosmopolitan ethic.
Of the great schools of philosophical antiquity, the Stoics are particularly helpful in this respect. For the Stoics philsophy was first and foremost an "exercise", not a body of knowledge, still less a specific method simply to be applied whenever a philosophical problem arose or a philosophical debate was in progress. Instead, philosophy, as an exercise, was a gradual but utterly transformative activity. Philosophy, of course, includes, but must not be confused with or simply confined to theoretical abstraction or textual analysis and interpretation. Instead, philosophical inquiry is necessarily connected to the whole manner and conduct of living a life. It involves a comprehensive and continuous process of reflection and action which penetrates to the inner world of belief and feeling, and shapes the outer world of behaviour and bearing. Consequently, philosophy is about fashioning
"a concrete attitude and determinate lifestyle, which engages the whole of existence. The philosophical act is not situated merely on the cognitive level, but on that of the self and of being. It is a progress which causes us to be more fully, and makes us better. It is a conversion which turns our entire life upside down, changing the life of the person who goes through it. It raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he (sic) attains self-consciousness, and exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom. " In re-drafting Philo's lists and modifiying them so that they more fully reflect contemporary concerns, as well as emphasising the ways in which they are echoed by the existential imperatives of Heidegger and Sartre, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Hadot talks of four means of learning : learning to live, learning to die, learning to dialogue and learning to read. These are, if you like, the generic activities which inform our daily conduct. Education, both formal and informal, is nothing other than learning to live, learning to be a person, or at least the kind of person which the culture in which one is inducted and initiated into deems important and worthy. In this respect, a philosophical approach to learning to live is essential. One should always adopt a critical stance to the kinds of learning preferred by culture in general and bureaucratically-organised education in particular. Living a life is an art fashioned through practical wisdom, the Aristotelian virtue of phronesis.
Learning to die is about learning how to enjoy, but not become enslaved to this particular life. An enlarged vision of an eternal cosmos, and the liberation of the mind, the imagination, and the contemplative faculty allows us the capacity to begin to face death with courage, humour, and above all equanimity. Death is not to be feared. For Socrates it could, logically, only be one of two things: either the sharing of an everlasting banquet with friends who have gone before, as well as the longed for meeting with Homeric heroes and ancient sages, or it is the most peaceful, eternal sleep imaginable. Either way, it is not a condition which should prompt mourning and despair, unless this life has been such a disappointment that the idea of leaving it without ever having tasted its fruits would seem a cruel blow. Wittgenstein had learned to live and to die, and so was able, by all accounts, to utter the memorable phrase, "Tell them I had a wonderful life,"  whereas in fact it appeared to the casual observer that his life was simply a catalogue of anxious events and tragic experiences. Moreover, doing philosophy is about, as Socrates famously says, "learning how to play dead." The mind or the soul is trained to roam the cosmos, the capturing of that sublime vision of truth, beauty and goodness which prompts most impulses to better the individual and collective lot.
Learning how to read, and learning how to dialogue are central features of any philosophical way of life. It is of paramount importance how one reads the text, the tradition, the practice into which one has been initiated so that all three do not perish as a consequence of blind faith and obedience. Learning to read means learning how to become critical, self-critical, analytic and poetic. It is both an art and a science, and as such transcends them both. Similarly, learning how to dialogue both with oneself and with others, is an activity which is at the heart of philosophical inquiry. The internal imperative to "know thyself" involves a joint quest, a journey of interiority as well as exteriority. To traverse the path into the inner self, glimpsed and understood in moments of philosophical prayer and contemplation where, paradoxically, the aim is, in fact, to escape the self altogether represents the interior quest, the dialogue with self. To take the outer path and dialogue with others is to recognise the fundamental connectedness one necessarily enjoys with others who are particular bearers of the human tag. In dialoguing with self and with others one becomes gradually aware of the particular instance of personhood the self represents, as well as the general class of personhood the self shares with others. This can only be done through listening carefully to what others have to say, and to speak openly and honestly about the things which require thinking through. Thorough research in order to lessen ignorance, quiet meditation in order to compose thoughts and the accomplishment of daily duties in order to regulate potentially chaotic lives are all involved in the four means of learning described and analysed by Hadot.
Moreover, the therapeutic aspect of philosophy is what binds the four generic activities together. It is about the Stoic activity of being indifferent to indifferent things. Again, Socrates, although not a Stoic in the strict sense of being a member of the school, is the prime example here, as Xanthippe's description testifies. There is, of course, another interpretation of the therapeutic purpose, and it is Wittgensteinian. Philosophy is therapy - a therapeutic endeavour designed to rid ourselves of the desire to construct vast and intricate metaphysical systems which, although appealing and satisfying to its adherents, have little basis in the reality of everyday life as we experience and know it. Philosophy is not an activity to prop up crippled souls through the promulgation of falsehoods; it is instead about the intellectual purging of the mind through the singular pursuit of truth. This is the principal Platonic definition of the philosopher. Glaucon's question : "...who are the true philosophers?" elicits Socrates's reply : "Those who love to see the truth." .
Philo's list is not, of course, exhaustive; neither is Hadot's, although the latter's four-part generic account of the various "learnings-to" are clearly intended to be more comprehensive than Philo's. Learning to live, to die, to read and to dialogue cover a multitude of differentiated activities, including all of Philo's particular exercises. But, the engagement with others in discussion, argument and conversation, loosely gathered in by Hadot's all-encompassing exercise of learning to dialogue, is only hinted at in Philo's enumeration of the important undertakings. However, what is of principal value in both Philo's and Hadot's description of the philosopher's everyday tasks, is the specific refocussing on the fundamental first-order activities as opposed to the abstracted second-order practices to which they may give rise. It is the combined expressions of thought and action which primarily interest us, and not the growing corpus of a second-order tradition spawned by such expressions.
One possibility emerging from this comparison is the characterisation of, say, the analytic tradition (and its associated concerns), and the phenomenological tradition, as middle-ranking directive arts, while, obviously, philosophy qua philosophy remains as the single and overarching directive. The above, first-order activities, reading, writing, listening and so on, then become the subordinate aims which feed into these higher directive functions. However, and this is where the overall argument parts company from Aristotle's analysis (of superior and subordinate aims)  , the central contention here is that these so-called subordinate arts are, in fact, the overarching directive arts, and it is the combination of these subordinate arts which lead to the creation of a philosophical life. The reason why they are directive in themselves, is because there is nothing beyond them. Philosophers do not engage in these activities in order to become philosophers, in a linear means-end fashion. Nor, even more absurdly, do they engage in them in order to become a member of the analytic tradition, or phenomenological tradition. These activities are what constitute philosophy. The sum total of these activities are both what philosophy is, and what a philosopher does. This distinction between first-order activities and second-order practices was clearly understood by the Stoics who maintained a substantive distinction between doing philosophy and discoursing about philosophy . Russell's famous chapter on "The Value of Philosophy" contains an analysis of the possible benefits accrued from doing philosophy, but much of it appears instrumental, as though there were a chain of causation involved, with an end result - namely a string of epistemological conclusions. Wittgenstein, somewhat harshly, detested the chapter and all that it meant. Trying to reason about why one does philosophy, as though one could then point to a finished product beyond it, was to miss the point altogether. Philosophy is, in a sense, a tautological activity : philosophers do what they do, because it is what philosophers like to do. Russell despaired of Wittgenstein's attack on his position : "he says people who like philosophy will pursue it, and others won't, and there's an end of it." .
The subverting of the traditionally-held
beliefs about primary and secondary aims, and the importance attached to
the traditionally-held relationship of first-order activities to second-order
practices, is what, for Hadot, leads to a spiritual understanding of the
philosophic way of life. It is not about subscribing, ultimately, to one
second-order tradition of inquiry, (such as analytic philosophy, phenomenology
or whatever) that makes for a philosophically-governed life, but the primary
commitment to those, or at least most of those first-order activities which
make up a measured, spiritual life which acknowledges the spiritual content,
the animating force, of a daily life, lived as well as possible. It is
this which Socrates appeared to have achieved, and which much professional
philosophy appears to ignore. It is the recognition and acknowledgement
that it is the collection of small things and routine daily actions and
habits which contribute to the philosophical life, which is equated with
a deeply spiritual life. The spiritual life is that which recognises the
place and importance of a daily life lived well, or at least to the best
of its capabilities; for the potential virtues or human excellences,
to gradually become transformed into actual virtues. In this way
the human telos begins to take recognisable shape as a guiding principle,
a principle which, arguably, religion finds it easier to fashion than does
The philosopher could easily spend her time constructing arguments in symbolic logic as in poetic form, or spend her time in the close reading of Philo as opposed to Hare or Nozick. Moreover, she has the choice of whether to lecture in didactic fashion or in discursive form. Whatever she chooses gradually and cumulatively leads to what she is or what she is to become. This fashions her spiritual self, the expression of her inner psuche, or animating principle, and her pneuma, the breath which confers life on her. Under Hadot's classification, we learn to dialogue with self and others by the means of the choices we make in terms of what we believe it is important to say and to whom we think it necessary to say it. Moreover, what we choose to think about, to dream about and to despair of, gradually makes us what we are. We learn to read by the choice of texts we make, the manner of our reading and with whom we undertake that journey of articulated language. We learn to die by positioning ourselves in relation to death, which, necessarily involves how we shall conduct ourselves whilst alive. To philosophise is to learn to play dead, to try to transcend the particularities of the here and now, in order to glimpse the generalities of the nowhere and nowhen. And we learn to live by consciously choosing those activities which conform to our abilities and proposed quests, by the continual exercise of the virtues, those qualities of mind and character, which, by choice we believe to be of paramount importance.
On this view of first-order activities, there is no fundamental and final distinction between thought and action or theory and practice. Indeed, arguably, the whole of western philosophy has been an attempt to articulate the subtle complexity of the relationship between theory and practice, between what one knows or believes and what one does or how one acts. The internal "logic of practice"  which dictates, governs, modifies and gives rise to our daily undertakings, at whatever level of subtlety and complexity, is inherent in our conscious as well as unconscious thinking and doing, or in another theoretical register, our daily praxis. What is of interest to us is the interplay between thinking and doing, and what gives rise to this interplay within what Taylor refers to as the perception of an "embodied agent" .
Philosophers, like all persons as embodied agents, are continually ascending and descending platforms of conditional understanding , each of which prompts the question posed previously : What should I do now? For the philosopher, as for everyone else, the question lurks always beneath the surface of daily practice and daily action; it is the prompting of praxis - that symbiotic relationhsip of theory to practice. But what happens when a platform of conditional understanding can no longer provide us with a theorem and a purpose for action. This is the point at which reasoned explanation stops and the logic of felt, or pre-linguistic, experience is evoked. My various theorems, comprised of their 'verdicts' and 'noticings',  provide me with rules for understanding and action, and analyses of reasons and purposes. They provide the notions of intelligible action and narrative unity described by MacIntryre. But where do I turn for explanation or reason when all justifications and rules cease? For an answer we turn to Wittgenstein :
"If I have exhausted the justifications I have reached bedrock, and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say : 'This is simply what I do.'"In doing philosophy, one chooses no single method, joins no independent tradition, and cleaves to no particular technique. Moreover, although initiated and inducted into a particular second-order practice, be it logical analysis, phenomenology or postmodernism, one may reject the label and abandon the camp, but never do so without respect for the tradition which sustains the practice. What one does choose, however, is to do philosophy through engaging in the performance of a range of first-order activities such as those described by Philo, re-clarified by Hadot, hinted at obliquely by Wittgenstein, and fully embodied in the unique character of Socrates. To read, think, talk and reflect: to discuss, argue, worry and care; to learn to live and die; to read and dialogue; and to attempt to become not just the better person that my Aristotelian telos bids me become, but symbiotically, the better citizen I must necessarily become if the engagement with philosophy is to be worth anything at all. To repeat Wittgenstein's dictum : "This is simply what I do."
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 See, for example, Alasdair MacIntyre's
division of philosophy into these three competing 'schools'.