On Accidental Philosophy

Recently, I attended an Interintellect salon on the topic of philosophy. The opening question to the discussion was, ‘Do you consider yourself to be a philosopher?’. In the course of my answer, I stated that I considered myself an ‘accidental philosopher’. By this, I meant that I was someone who, despite not explicitly thinking about philosophy and philosophical questions, as well as someone who does not have a formal background in philosophy, thinks about the fundamental questions of life.

I think there are a great number of people who fall into this category without realizing it. Philosophy is often associated with sitting around, pondering questions idly and contemplating the ideas of particular philosophers, which are often difficult to read and to comprehend. It’s generally not associated with the layperson or with routine, everyday life. Yet, when you think about it, there is a certain level of philosophical thinking that goes into peoples’ lives, even if it is not explicitly thought of as philosophy per se. For instance, a person does not have to know about Stoicism or think of themselves as a stoic in order to live like a Stoic.  

As far as I can tell, ‘accidental philosophy’ does not exist as a category of philosophy. The closest thing I can find to it is the idea of ‘Accidentialism’, the notion that events can occur haphazardly without a particular cause to ascribe the event. This is not what I’m trying to describe, however.

Is it even possible for one to be an ‘accidental’ philosopher? Or is philosophy inherently something that is done purposefully and intentionally? This is ultimately the question I’m finding myself pondering following this morning’s salon. It’s a question that I’ll likely be wrestling with for some time to come. This piece doesn’t fully articulate my thoughts on the idea and is likely not fully coherent. It’s an idea that’s very much in progress and more a patchwork of related ideas than a coherent view at this stage.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. Do you think a person can be an accidental philosopher or practice philosophy unintentionally? Or is it something that must be done intentionally?

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