Publication details for Prof Mikhail EpsteinEpstein, Mikhail (2014). Lyrical Philosophy, or How to Sing with Mind. Common Knowledge 20(2): 204-213.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 0961-754X (Print), 1538-4578 (Online)
- DOI: 10.1215/0961754X-2422890
- Further publication details on publisher web site
Author(s) from Durham
The article suggests that, contrary to widespread opinions and standard encyclopedic definitions, philosophy is a domain not only of thoughts and ideas but also of feelings. Philosophy as (etymologically) love for wisdom includes emotions in both of its components. Among the many various feelings that we experience, there is a discrete group that, thanks to their involvement with universals, may be regarded as philosophical. Wonder, grief, compassion, tenderness, hope, despair, and delight are philosophical if they are experienced on behalf of humankind and addressed to the world as a whole. The vocation of philosophy is to expand the realm of feelings through the generalizing capacity of the reason, so that love, joy, and pain can be experienced in a noble way, on a maximally global scale, not reducible to private or practical situations. Emotions of philosophical cast affect the world more powerfully than metaphysical ideas and logical propositions. Revolutions are driven less by ideas than by philosophical wrath, exasperation with the existing order of things, and the feeling that the world is unjust.
It is in this context that Epstein's essay defines the genre of lyric philosophy as a direct self-expression of the thinking subject in the process of attaining self-cognition — as represented, for instance, in the work of Augustine, Montaigne, Kierkegaard, Emerson, and Nietzsche. Philosophical subjecthood as a means of self-expression for the transcendental subject (in the Kantian sense) should be distinguished from the purely personal subjectivity inherent to empirical individuals, in the same way and to the same extent as philosophical feelings should be distinguished from mundane ones experienced in everyday situations. Since the subject focused on itself is essential to lyricism, we may even speak of the generic, inescapable lyricism of philosophy per se.