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?

Why I’ve relaunched my personal website

After nearly two years, I have dredged out my old WordPress site to begin posting once again. Those who read my previous work may notice that all my old posts are gone. They’ve not disappeared completely — they can be accessed over on my Medium page.

The new look and format of this site reflect the new direction in my life, both professionally and personally since I last posted on here. I’m no longer doing anything related to teaching and I’ve more or less moved on from freelance writing and the form of commentary I used to do (the reasons for which I’ll likely expand on in a future post).

Ideally, I’ll post a minimum of once a week – the range of posts I have in mind range from, in-depth commentary and analysis on datasets and other technical tasks directly related to my studies on the one hand. Other posts will be a more informal commentary on either news and issues related to IT, or perhaps general musings on what’s happening in the world and in my life. Overall, it’ll have quite a different, hopefully, more accessible and lighthearted vibe than the previous iteration of my WordPress site did. Now I’m no longer obliged to write like a potential reporter or website columnist, I’ll be free to write more honestly and candidly.

The majority of 2019 for me has been intensely inwardly facing, focusing almost entirely on study and establishing myself within the field of IT at the expense of almost everything else. This has been necessary to a large degree — transitioning from an entirely different field in teaching, with a great deal of uncertainty about the future has required lots of hard work to figure out a clear direction and make up for lost time.

I’m fortunately now well on the way to accomplishing that goal, having identified a professional niche (data analysis and business intelligence), established some contacts in the field and steadily learning the essential technical skills needed moving forward. Partially, this blog, which will double as a portfolio of sorts, is another step toward that end. Maintaining a regular, public blog and the accountability that comes with it is among the most powerful motivators toward this goal.

Bringing back this blog in a new format represents a first step towards finding a better balance between study and my personal life and to become more outward-facing once again. As I wrote for Ordinary Times recently, writing is a core part of my identity and one of my favourite pastimes. This new site will hopefully help me rekindle that passion for writing and blogging I once had.