Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Project of Philosophy and Contemporary Society, Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University


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Meaning and Mistakes in Philosophy and Life

Benjamin Murphy

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.11, No.1 (June 2021):78-99




The history of philosophy is a history of contradictions, not consensus. This suggests that the history of philosophy is, for the most part, a history of mistakes. A scientist who devotes their life to a mistake can console themselves with the thought that they still contributed to scientific progress, but this source of consolation is not available to the philosopher. In The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro suggests that dignity may be found in making your own mistakes. This suggests that my life might be meaningful because I attempted a difficult and worthwhile task appropriate to my station and failed. Failure might produce beneficial by-products such as conceptual clarity, but to pretend that this counts as success would be dishonest, not dignified. The true philosopher is disappointed at failure, but takes consolation in the fact that they at least made their own mistakes.

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