Todd Trembley's Philosophy Homepage

It has been said that philosophy begins with a sense of wonder.  Before we can philosophize we must be startled, surprised, and perplexed by the strangeness of the world that we thought we knew.  It is only when we begin to wonder about the things that appear to us that we can start the slow and difficult process of inquiring into what is really the case.  This dissatisfaction with commonly accepted and mindlessly repeated answers and the desire to discover what is ultimately true characterize every branch of philosophy.
 
Socrates and Plato haunt all of this, as indeed they haunt - or perhaps propel and animate - all of philosophy.  It is Socrates who refuses to call himself wise and instead refers to himself as a lover of wisdom in recognition of the fact that it is probably only the God who is wise and that no human has the right to apply this language to him or herself.  Nevertheless wisdom is something that is loved and sought because we have the ambition to be god-like, which, according to Plato, is our ethical task.  Like Socrates, we must admit our fundamental poverty when it comes to knowledge of reality, while not giving up hope of the riches to come by failing to embark in search of them.
 
So, while philosophy begins with the sense of wonder, we must also recognize that it is driven by a love or zeal for the truth, because it is only these sorts of strong and overriding emotions that can motivate us to endure all of the difficulty that attends intensely questioning our everyday beliefs.  Plato goes before us here in identifying Eros or love as the force that propels the philosopher to rise up to what is ultimately true and good.  Thus philosophy is erotic -  it would have us seek after truth with the same strength that our sexual impulses exercise in drawing us to one another.

Finally, Socrates and Plato highlight the importance of philosophically interrogating ourselves first and foremost, but other people and the world itself as well.  It is their conviction that it is only by asking questions and demanding an account that we get closer to the truth.  We know ourselves to the extent that we are willing to endure our own most carefully articulated questions, and this self-examination by means of question and answer is necessary for a life that is truly worthwhile and fulfilling.  The same can be said about others and the world itself, since we know each of them to the extent that we pose questions to them and pay close attention to their response.
 
This website is called "A Bit of Wax" because in his Meditations Descartes shows us how we can move towards clarity and truth by philosophically interrogating all of our experiences.  He holds a bit of wax in his hands, he interrogates the wax, and he demands that it give an account of itself.  What the wax says is surprising, but only because unquestioned beliefs and ideas, when they are finally questioned often yield answers that are different from our uncritical expectations.
 
I invite you to join me in this process of philosophical interrogation.  May we be courageous in the questions we ask, diligent in the answers we put forward, and patient in listening to the answers that others provide.