I notice that many people in academia think deeply about philosophical ideas, but do not let them inform their lives; they think about them, but do not live them. Their minds are deep, but their lives seem shallow and we find a disconnect between what they think and what they do. Ensuring this connection between our best thought and our actual action is a challenge that every philosopher faces. It is not easy, but it is necessary, and even if we falter, we must stand up and try again. We must, in the words famously attributed to Gandhi, “be the change we wish to see;” we must live the truths we hold to be true.
Life is the ultimate test of a philosophy. All philosophical claims need to stand the test of real life. A philosophy that cannot be lived in ways that benefit human beings, nonhuman beings, and the larger environment, is not really worth holding. Philosophy is not just a mind-game to amuse the intellect; it is a way of exploring the deepest questions that we can ask to develop answers that help us live more fulfilling lives.
Our answers to philosophical questions are never ‘final;’ they are always in process. Dialogue keeps them evolving in meaningful ways as we raise the perennial human questions again and again from one generation to the next and even from one stage in our lives to another. As we grow, our answers to philosophical questions grow with us.