Take responsibility

This is not a game (not an intellectual one, nor of any other kind). It's about serious matters, the most serious there are for any one of us.

Philosophy is good advice, a suggestion to reflect, a recommendation how to live. And it's not easy to give advice, much less good advice, don't you think? It's no big deal to talk a lot, of course; but do you also heed yourself what you say? Do you act the way you recommend, are your affective responses right in tune with what you tell others they should feel? You and I, we're both still far from being perfectly wise (or so I presume, I am, at any rate); so we fail to act as we think we should often enough. But could you with a clear conscience advise someone to do something you haven't tried yourself (and successfully)?

You, as a lover of philosophy, have a responsibility: you've taken a reflective stance on your life, you know what it means to examine and improve. You've been through the first few cycles of reflection; you've learned it's not a trivial thing to look at your life as a whole and figure out what it would mean to make it a good one, and happy; you know that taking the reflective stance can be disturbing, and yet it pays off: it lets you have a satisfaction deeper than what anything from outside yourself could ever give you. That's because it's your life, and everything you are and ever will be is expressed in that life — nothing else can have that sort of meaning for you. Now remember that everybody else is in the respective situation: for them, it's their lives which are at stake, and for them, the stakes are as high as they are for you.

You know that there is only as much to your life as you make out of it yourself. And while all those decisions (what to think, and do, and how you should be feeling at whatever happens to you) are yours, and yours alone, there is a plethora of help, suggestions and advice in the works of all the masters of the field. Being able to access them is an immense treasure, matched by only a few other things that depend on external circumstances: think of the few people you really love, and really are loved by; think of the luck of living in a society that gives you freedom enough to pursue your goals and provides the basic resources to be able to do so — not everybody is so lucky to have that, and while it would still be possible to be upright and make whatever is possible out of a situation where these conditions aren't fulfilled, even the best that could come out of it wouldn't amount to much, compared with other possible scenarios. So do not hesitate to make that treasure available to others as well. Study the works of philosophers thoroughly, and make sure you pass on whatever you were able to learn. Be careful, however, not to be carried away when you start passing it on to others. The receivers of our advice are worth that we give them all our attention: make sure that what you have to say is something that has value for them, helps them see what you can see — and never forget to respect their capacity to think and decide for themselves. In a word: deal responsibly with that treasure you've won. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.