"Know Yourself" words we know well, that have come down to us from the time of the Greek philosophers; and very difficult to achieve. A professor of philosophy at the Catholic University, on the education page of the Catholic Times, prepares a short meditation on the subject by using Kant's famous four questions.
in his old age, looking back on his life, believed the subject of
philosophy could be summed up by the answers to four questions. What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope? What does it mean to be human? Attempting to give answers to these four questions he
arrived at his philosophy.
To the first question, What can I know, he
discusses the nature and scope of
knowledge. To the second, What should I do, he discusses ethics. To the third, What may I hope for, he discusses religion and beliefs. The answer to the fourth question, What does it mean to be human, follows naturally from the answers to the previous three
questions. With his
answer to this last question, Kant believed he had summed up
and answered all previous philosophical questions.
has tried to answer these questions over the centuries, speculating far and wide but not satisfied with the answers kept on searching. Humans will continue to ask these
questions until death intervenes, and when doubt appears they will look
for better answers. It is from these questions that philosophy
developed. There are all kinds of definitions for philosophy, but at the
end it comes down to questioning our humanity and looking for answers.
The results of our understanding will decide the way we will
live, and in this sense all of us are philosophizing.
philosophizing, we sometimes come to a new understanding of ourselves and look
upon ourselves with different eyes. This enables us to see others
differently and to initiate new relationships. A person, when viewed philosophically, becomes not merely another object but one I can love
or hate. A stranger can become a neighbor, and a person hurting can become the stimulus for selfless giving. The way I will understand and accept others will
depend on how I understand myself. And my philosophy will determine,
in many cases, how I will act.
Christianity is a
revealed religion but many, without any reference to Christianity, have
deduced many of its teachings from their
own personal philosophies. "Faith implies reason and perfects it" would be the Christian formulation of how we are to arrive at a life enhancing philosophy. Or, put another way, how the supernatural builds on the natural, or how grace, as St. Thomas
said, builds on nature. In the past philosophy was considered the
handmaid of theology but there would be few philosophers today who would
feel comfortable with theology let alone see philosophy as a
handmaid. But whether handmaid or not, the Church teaches that both philosophy and theology are necessary for a proper understanding of the fourth question posed by Kant: What does it mean to be human?