‘Philosophy began with Socrates wandering’
Conversation between two Ancient Greek philosophers in a garden, with a pupil, Wilhelm von Gloeden, 1856–1931
Many newspapers have regular columns on science. But few of these columns are dedicated to a discussion of the nature or purpose of science. Almost all newspapers have regular pages devoted to sport. But it would be unusual to have an article that grappled with the meaning of sport. Yet in various ways several philosophers in The Stone Reader—a collection of short, philosophy essays from the New York Times’s philosophy blog The Stone—seek to address the existential questions, “What Is Philosophy?” and “What Is A Philosopher?”
What is a Philosopher? is the title of the first essay in this volume, written by Professor Simon Critchley who also acts as The Stone Reader’s co-editor (alongside Peter Catapano of The New York Times). Critchley’s academic career began in the UK, where he developed an interest in thinkers from the continental tradition, such as Heidegger and Derrida. Just over a decade ago he moved to the New School for Social Research where he has continued to write prolifically, on a wide variety of subjects – a recent book was on suicide – with an essayistic style that again owes more to a European than an anglo-American tradition of philosophy.
Philosophy began with Socrates wandering around the marketplace in Athens interrogating the people he met about the meaning of beauty and love and bravery. One common criticism of contemporary philosophy is that it has since become overly technical and remote, cut off from the ordinary concerns of ordinary people. The Stone column, which sits within the New York Times online Opinion pages, is to be welcomed as an important corrective to philosophy’s inaccessible image.