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In the Name of Philosophy: Confucianism and the Loss of Sophian Purpose in the West

A common assessment of contemporary western philosophy asserts that in its search for abstract truth, it has become dogmatic, professionalized, and inaccessible. Scholars such as Wilshire (1990), Kupperman (2002), Hadot (2004), and Nussbaum (1997), have argued that while it is readily apparent that philosophy has largely surrendered its quest for wisdom, this has certainly not always been the case. These and others have suggested that a refocusing of western philosophy is required in order to meet its moral obligations of nurturing the ‘good life.’ Drawing out the implications of the above assertions, we find that we are left in a void in the west, without a guiding story to empower us in meeting the many challenges we face. The ‘examined life’ morally obligates philosophers and other thinkers to not only recognize this, but also to strive to offer a means with which to fill that void. Mikhail Epstein (2012) suggests a return to sophian purpose and offers the term sofiophilia to refer to the search for wisdom:

“Sofiofilia absorbs the practical wisdom of the ancients, as found in the Books of Job and Solomn’s parables, Confucius and Lao Tse, and, more recently, Montaigne and Pascal, Goethe and Leo Tolstoy, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. While philosophy has abandoned wisdom and turned into a rigid discipline which limits itself to the systemic organization of notions and a logical analysis of language, sophiophilia searches for new and non-academic venues of living-through-thinking.” (p. 240)

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