We Are All Philosophers

by burtenshaw

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Antonio Gramsci died seventy-seven years ago today.

This from his introduction to Marxist philosophy in the Prison Notebooks:

“It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellectual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional philosophers. It must be first shown that everyone is a “philosopher”, by defining the limits and characteristics of the “spontaneous philosophy” which is proper to everybody. This philosophy is contained in: 1. language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts and not just of words grammatically devoid of content; 2. “common sense” and “good sense”; 3. the entire system of beliefs, superstitions, opinions, ways of seeing things and of acting, which surface collectively under the name of “folklore”.

“Having first shown that everyone is a philosopher, though in their own way and unconsciously, since even in the slightest manifestation of intellectual activity whatever, in “language”, there is contained a specific conception of the world, one then moves on to say, one proceeds to the question – is it better to “think”, without having a critical awareness, in a disjointed and episodic way? In other words, is it better to take part in a conception of the world mechanically imposed by the external environment? By one of the many social groups in which everyone is automatically involved from the moment of their entry into the conscious world (and this can be one’s village or province; it can have its origins in the parish and the “intellectual activity” of the local priest or ageing patriarch whose wisdom is law, or in the little old woman who has inherited the lore of the witches or the minor intellectual soured by his own stupidity and inability to act)? Or, on the other hand, is it better to work out consciously and critically one’s own conception of the world, be one’s own guide, refusing to accept passively and supinely from outside the moulding of one’s personality?

(Artwork by Maser)

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