Saturday, May 22, 2010

Philosophers and Plain People

...I have implied that, in order to continue asking questions about the ends of life, one has to think as a philosopher does by engaging in philosophical dialogue. But, if this is so, it may seem to follow that plain persons, just because they are not philosophers, are precluded from asking questions about the ends of life in a worthwhile way. Is this in fact a consequence of my conclusion? The answer is 'No' and this because the contrast between plain persons and philosophers is itself rooted in confusion. I have argued elsewhere that plain persons - and we all start out as plain persons - who pursue their own answers to the question "What is our good?" in their everyday lives to any significant extent inescapably become involved in reflective practices and, in reflecting on what their or rather our lives have been so far, they and we raise questions about those lives that are already philosophical questions. Plain persons are all of them potential and many of them actual philosophers, although not in the mode of professional philosophers, and every philosopher, whether professional or not, begins as a plain person.

Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Ends of Life and of Philosophical Writing," The Tasks of Philosophy, Cambridge UP (New York: 2006), pp. 140-141.

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