Date of Award

Spring 1979

Document Type




First Advisor

Richard Lambert

Second Advisor

James Hamilton

Third Advisor

William Thompson


C. I. Lewis has said that "philosophy is concerned with what is already familiar.I concur with that estimation, even though my conception of familiarity differs in detail from his. Moreover, I think that, properly understood, philosophy terminates with the familiar. But philosophy and the familiar do not simply interact at beginning and end: philosophy is always concerned with the familiar, it cannot be interested in anything else. The two are intertwined at every moment; they exist in symbiotic relation with one another. Both are at once sublime and trivial; both are close at hand and yet far removed. Before moving on to an investigation of "knowledge", I will indirectly clarify these preceding remarks about philosophy and the familiar by disclosing the conception of philosophy which informs this study. Then I will show more precisely how this inquiry grew out of that conception of philosophy. Thus informed, one will be more apt to comprehend the heart of this inquiry into the concept of knowledge, which begins in Chapter II. The philosophic impulse arises out of Aristotelian "wonder"^ and expresses itself initially as dissatisfaction with the appetitive, cognitive and behavioral aspects of one’s life. In effect, the Lebenspraxis in which one is engaged appears to be deficient.

Whether this deficiency is genuine or illusory can be determined only by yielding to and refining that philosophic impulse. Aquinas' remark to the effect that "philosophy is all straw" would seem ludicrous had he not first done the work which allegiance to the philosophic impulse demands. Likewise, the nonsensical elucidations of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus cannot be recognized and used as a "ladder" until one has climbed the ladder oneself.3 This had to be done by Wittgenstein no less than it must be done by his readers. As with Thomas and Wittgenstein, so it is with philosophicallyminded persons in general. For such persons, the world can be seen aright only after having put it to the test of philosophic inquiry. Commitment to such an inquiry is not the only alternative open to those who have felt the pull of philosophic wonder and discontentment. They may choose not to nurture the philosophic impulse; they may allow wonder and dissatisfaction to "run wild", as it were. If allowed to go unchecked in this way, pre-philosophic dissatisfaction can have the most pernicious results; first and most obvious of these is uncontrollable turmoil. In other times and cultures, such turmoil would have led to an act of passionate desperation, like suicide. Kierkegaard has shown that in the "present age", however, those who fail to heed the philosophic impulse properly will not succumb to any such desperate act: Nowadays not even a suicide kills himself in desperation. Before taking the step he deliberates so long and so carefully that he literally chokes with thought. It is even questionable whether he ought to be called a suicide, since it is really thought which takes his life. He does not die with deliberation but from deliberation. 4 The philosophically-minded person may not divorce himself from philosophy for the same reason that he may not sever himself passionately and desperately from the springs of life. He must give such matters careful and repeated consideration - it is nature to do so. For such a person, there is no real choice to be made between life and death or between philosophy and blissful ignorance.

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