The Great Cornell West on the Examined Life: Courage to think, Courage to love, Courage to Hope

Philosophers are lovers of wisdom. It takes tremendous discpline, takes tremendous courage to think for yourself to examine yourself its socratic and imperative to examine yourself requires courage.  William Butler Yates used to say it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul than a it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield Courage to think critically, courage is denabling virtue for any philosopher or human being in the world. Courage to think Courage to love Courage to Hope.

Plato says that philosphy is a meditation on and a preparation for death. And by death what he means is not an event, but a death in life becaues there is no rebirth no change no transformation without death. So the question becomes how do you learn how to die. Of course Montaine talks about that in his famous essay, “to philosophize is to learn how to die.” You cant talk about truth without talking about learning how to die. I believe that Theodore Adorno is right when he says that the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, that gives it an existential emphasis you see? So were really talkin about Truth as a way of life as opposed to truth as a set of propostions that correspond to a set of things in the world.

Human beings are unable to ever gain any monopoly on Truth- captial T. We might have access to truth, small t, but they are fallable claims about truth, they could be wrong they could be open to revisions and so on. So there is a certain kind of mystery that goes hand in hand with Truth. This is why so many of the existential thinkers be they religious like Meister Eckhart or Paul Tillich or be they secular like Camus and Sarte, that they are accenting our finetude and our inabilty to fully grasp the ultimate nature of reality, the truth about things.

 So you talk about Truth being tied to the way to Truth. Because once you give up on the notion of fully grasping the way the world is- you are gonna talk about what are the ways in which I can sustain my quest for truth. How do you sustain a path or journety toward truth, the way to truth? 


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