Perusing the op/ed sections of the LA Times and the NY Times this morning, I stumbled across a very interesting article not aligned with the general character of the often politically charged op/ed articles of the NY Times. Entitled “Philosophy As an Art of Dying,” the article lays out the most important and critical test of philosophical soundness, one’s own death.
While one’s philosophy may typically be viewed as the manner in which one lives his or her life, columnist Costica Bradatan says that the job description of the true philosopher often includes how one meets death. He emphasizes his point by referring to the intense deaths of several famous philosophers, namely Socrates, who we all know was condemned to death and forced to drink a hemlock-infused beverage. Bradatan argues that it is the gumption and courage of these philosophers to essentially meet death head-on that seperates them from the countless thinkers who crumble at the end of their lives. These philosophers believed so strongly in their philosophical truths that they willingly died for them.
For me, this notion of the critical philosophical importance of facing death is a truly existential one, in the classic French sense of the term. The most famous proponent and adherent of existentialism is French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who consistently held that death was one of the most significant events in one’s life. Although he never claimed to be an existentialist in name, French author Albert Camus adhered to a similar philosophy of death.
It appears to be true. How one faces death determines both the validity of ones philosophy in the mind of the philosopher as well as the courage of that philosopher in his or her convictions. Nobody follows the philosopher who folds while knocking at death’s door.
You can find the NY Times article in its entirety HERE.