The Mindful Asking of Essential Questions

The charge of lack of progress can also be equivocal. If philosophy is the mindful asking of essential questions, perhaps there are never ready-made answers that can be encapsulated in univocal categories, hence packaged and transmitted through time, like mail handled through the post. […] No genuine philosopher can accept answers ready-made from others: this is simply the nature of the philosophical enterprise as a metaxological dialogue. This may seem to confirm the prejudice that philosophy is just sophisticated, not to say sophistical garrulousness. The deeper meaning is that each age and every individual must struggle, in the overdetermined ambiguity of the middle, to renew for itself a mindfulness of the essential questions. Nothing, not even scientific method, can stand proxy for this struggle.

William Desmond (1990) Philosophy and Its Others, Albany NY: State University of New York Press, pp. 31-2.

The theme for World Philosophy Day 2017 is the call to philosophical reflection: “Faced with the complexity of today’s world, philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility, to take a step back and engage in reasoned dialogue, to build together the solutions to challenges that are beyond our control.” (Irina Bokova, Former UNESCO Director-General).

In this extract Desmond also asserts the need for each generation to ask the philosophical questions for itself. Like Drury (here), he asserts that science cannot take this job over for us. Unlike Drury, he seeks a middle way between the Hegelian view of all as a unity and (Drury and) Wittgenstein’s view of discontinuous plurality. This is the metaxological view (more on this in the Irish Times, 27 Oct 2015).

Scroll to Top