Pythagoras’s account of the word philosophy requires we love it because we lack it. Strauss takes this to mean that we cease loving wisdom to the extent we attain it, which is so crazy that we know we’ve made a wrong turn somewhere.

Philosophy will always be an act of love because, absent love, our justifications can’t fall back on its power to bake bread, build trinkets or fly us to the moon. In this sense it is opposed to the wisdom now called science so far as an intellectually lazy practitioner can justify by pointing to i-pods, vaccines, or cures for cancer, implying that he would just as soon dispense with the knowledge if he could have the results without it. But philosophy is either a love of knowing or is nothing at all.




  1. December 16, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    It seems to me that if, but only if the thesis of Pythagoras can be stated as:

    We love wisdom only if we lack wisdom


    If we love wisdom, then we lack wisdom.

    then, by

    We do not lack wisdom.

    and Modus Tollens,

    we should conclude, with Strauss, that:

    We do not love wisdom.

    As I said: only if.

    • December 16, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Strauss does not see anything to the love beyond the pursuit, but I think there is more to the “philo” in philosophy than this, and I think we can take Pythagoras as saying the same thing. He called himself a lover of wisdom and not a wise man, but this did not require that the love fall away with the attainment.

  2. December 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    One of the reasons that some of the Greeks (I don’t know if it is noted by Pythagoras in particular) had for thinking in terms of philosophy rather than wisdom is that only gods have wisdom properly and in itself, since we don’t have it by nature. The philosopher is not wise; but he becomes wise. This suggests one aspect in which there might be something more than the pursuit — i.e., it’s not just the pursuing, but the constant coming-to-have (where that’s distinguished from simply having, as becoming is distinguished from being).

    • December 17, 2015 at 7:47 am

      That was Rousselot’s account of human knowledge too.

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