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Wisdom and Speculative Philosophy (Cioran Interview)


A short passage of an interview with Cioran that was done by Georg Carpat Focke.


G.C.F: We have said and repeated for a long time that philosophy is finished. But philosophers have defended themselves in such an obstinate manner against this opinion that we must consider that it's not without signifying something. The responses of philosophers bring no more solutions, it's the issue of living here below and the pragmatism that we meet everywhere. To what can we still hold on to? To wisdom maybe, to the path taken by the Sophoi?
* Sophoi is used in French here and signifies 'wise man'.

Cioran: There is no doubt in my mind that wisdom is the principal goal in life, and that is why I always return to the Stoics. They have achieved wisdom, and that is why we can no longer call them philosophers as such. From my point of view, wisdom is the natural term of philosophy, its end in both senses of the word. A philosophy ends in wisdom and thereupon disappears.

G.C.F: A loop, if I understand well, is drawn here, going from ancient wisdom towards speculative philosophy, then coming back to wisdom upon which a new meditation on the essential occurs. Could it be that knowledge starts from self-discovery?


Cioran: The disillusioned from philosophy turns to wisdom. This is absolutely right. If it is true that we must start from philosophy, we must also be able to detach ourselves from it. It might in fact be the supreme task. It's no doubt why ancient wisdom has left such a strong impression in me, this philosophy of the Ancients that has ceased to be a philosophy in the sense that Aristotle for example understood it.


Today the problem of knowledge has become accessory; which is, on first basis, the way of tackling life, the question of knowing how to bear it. In the end I only know of two problems: how to bear life and how to bear oneself. There are no harder tasks. And there are no definitive answers to resolve them.


Simply everyone must resolve at least partially these problems for themselves. Is there in life a greater misery than having to deal with oneself every day, to wake up and say to oneself: "another day has begun, I have to see it to its end, I have to bear this day as well."? It's therefore not just a matter of acting, but of creating...


This is why I am against work. We must not even write. The only important thing is to always have in front of us these insoluble problems and live like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius. Then we are no longer part of the real life stories, but in contemplation. Our contemporaries have lost the faculty to contemplate things. They have unlearned the art of intelligently wasting one's time.


If I should do a resumé then I would have to say that I am the result of all my lost hours. I have no career, and I wasted enormous amounts of time. But this waste of time has been a real gain. Only the man who stays removed, who doesn't do like the others, keeps the faculty of being able to really understand things.


It's really not modern at all of me to say this, but the antiquity has lived entirely with this idea. Today it is impossible. It's a position that no longer makes sense for people today. But, anyway, this world will perish, that there is no doubt about.

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