VIEWSnThe Spiritual Meaning of Philosophynby Stephen R.L. ClarknIn 525 A.D. the Lady Philosophy reminded Boethius, innhis death-cell, that true philosophers must think body,nrank, and estate of less importance than their understandingnof what was truly their own. This understanding of philosophy,nwhich is also Epictetus’s and Aurelius’s, as somethingnmore than a pleasant enough word game, has been neglectednby modern sophists, though “taking one’s troublesnphilosophically” is still a common enough phrase. Thosenancients who, not being Socrates, still thought they ought tonwant to be Socrates, thought of the Hebrews as a nation ofnphilosophers, not because they asked questions, or practicedna careful casuistry, but because they served God, becausenthey saw our ordinary “waking” world as fragmentary orndreamlike by comparison with reality.nIf moderns discuss the thought that our present life is andream, it is as a problem in epistemology to be neutralizedn— like other great problems—by suggesting that it isnsomehow impossible to question the fundamental frameworknwithin which we live. A better understanding of thatnthought is as an ethical one: are we right to assume thatnthings are as they appear to us, under the influence of desirenor fear or self-esteem? The ancient answer, still worthnconsidering, is that they are not, that this life is, in MarcusnAurelius’s words, “a dream and a delirium,” that we do notnsee things straight until we see with the eyes of Reason.nThe moral dangers of thinking this life but a dream arennot so great: Epictetus believed that we began to wake upnprecisely through our recognition of moral duty. ThenStephen Clark is a professor of philosophy at thenUniversity of Liverpool.n14/CHRONICLESnnnthought was not intended to deaden but to increase ournmoral seriousness. If the real world is not what the “truenphilosophers” thought, we have no good ground to thinknthat wisdom is worth pursuing, or even attainable. If we takenphilosophy — or science in general — with proper seriousness,nwe must try to wake up and remember who and whatnwe are, and what is ours. Remembering that, we can beginnto glimpse, “as through a narrow crack,” what the LadynPhilosophy intended.nSophists and SagesnEven today philosophical texts, at least in public libraries,nare usually found next to the volumes of moral ornspiritual uplift, but few people would find it natural to turnnto modern analytical philosophy as consolation for theirntroubles, as they might pick up a book of crossword puzzles,nor the latest thriller. People may still imagine that philosophynis “what you need in times of trouble,” or that it offers thenappearance of occult or esoteric knowledge. Once they findnout what modern philosophers actually do, they are rapidlyndisillusioned.nIt is perhaps no bad thing, of course, that universitynlecturers have fewer pretensions than the “wise men” whomnSocrates interrogated. We are paid to teach those who wishnto have a university qualification, and to write books andnarticles on selected texts and topics. We are not paid tonprepare ourselves, our pupils, and our readers for disgracenand death, to stand out against unjust rulers, nor even tonpractice more than the bare minimum of civil virtue.n