Whatever philosophy may be, it is in the world and must relate to it. It breaks through the shell of the world in order to move into the infinite. But it turns back in order to find in the finite its always unique historical foundation. It pushes into the furthest horizons beyond being-in-the-world in order to experience the present in the eternal. But even the profoundest meditation acquires its meaning by relating back to man’s existence here and now. Philosophy glimpses the highest criteria, the starry heaven of the possible, and seeks in the light of the seemingly impossible the way o man’s dignity in the phenomenon of his empirical existence. Philosophy addresses itself to individuals. It creates a free community of those who rely on each other in. their will for truth. Into this community the philosophic man would like to enter. It is there in the world at anytime, but cannot become a wordily institution without losing the freedom of its truth. He cannot know whether he belongs to it. No authority decides on his acceptance. He wants to live in his thinking in such a way as to make his acceptance possible. But how does the world relate to philosophy? There are chairs of philosophy at the universities. Nowadays they are an embarrassment. Philosophy is politely respected because of tradition, but despised in secret. The general opinion is: it has nothing of importance to say. Neither has it any practical value. It is named in public but does it really exist? Its existence is proved at least by the defense measures it provokes. We can see this from comments like: “Philosophy is too complicated. I don’t understand it. It’s beyond me. It’s something for professionals. I have no gift for it. Therefore it doesn’t concern me.” But that is like saying: I don’t need to bother about the fundamental questions of life: I can diligently bury myself in some special field of work or scholarship without thinking or questioning .its meaning, and, for the rest, have “opinions” and be content with that. The defense becomes fanatical. A benighted vital instinct hates philosophy. It is dangerous. If I understood it I-should have to change my life. I would find myself in another frame of mind, see everything in a different light, and have to judge anew. Better not think philosophically! Then come the accusers, who want to replace the obsolete philosophy by something new and totally different. It is mistrusted as the utterly mendacious end product of a bankrupt theology. The meaninglessness of philosophical propositions is made fun of. Philosophy is denounced as the willing handmaiden of political and other powers. For many politicians, their wretched trade would be easier if philosophy did not exist at all. Masses and functionaries are easier to manipulate when they do not think but only have a regimented intelligence. People must be prevented from becoming serious. Therefore it is better for philosophy to be boring. Let the chairs of philosophy rot. The more piffle is taught, the sooner people will be blinkered against the light of philosophy. Thus philosophy is
surrounded by enemies, most of whom are not conscious of being such. Bourgeois complacency, conventionality, the satisfactions of economic prosperity, the appreciation of science only for its technical achievements, the absolute will to power, the bonhomie of politicians, the fanaticism of ideologies, the literary self-assertiveness of talented writers - in all these things people parade their anti- philosophy. They do not notice it because they do not realize what they are doing. They are unaware that their anti- philosophy is itself a philosophy, but a perverted one, and that this anti-philosophy, if elucidated, would annihilate itself.
The word ‘chairs’, in the context of the passage, means:
- wooden faced people
- separate chairs for philosophers
- reserved seats for students of philosophy