Axioms of Sophology - An Outline


1.      PRIMACY OF CHOICE. Every self-conscious person judges some acts, some beliefs, some chosen values as better than others. Wisdom is whatever it is that guides such choices.

2.      THREE DIMENSIONAL MAN. All human choices involve at least three complex contexts within which all persons live, and within which each orients himself.  These orienting horizons of a person are body, mind, and soul. A simple characterization of these would be as follows: My body is where I am.  My mind is how I know where I am.  My soul is how I know where I am is home.   

3.      PERSONAL WISDOM. Because humans are not born wise but grow in wisdom, sophology is concerned with the development of the soul's character. To study wisdom is to set out to make rational sense of the unfolding of a personal story. This gives sophology its immediate, primary datum.

4.      HISTORICAL WISDOM. The assembly of received judgements concerning the unfolding of the personal stories of people throughout the ages constitutes the subject matter that is recognized collectively as the wisdom of mankind. This is an historical study.

5.      REASON, EXPERIENCE, IMAGINATION. These primary data can and must be studied, empirically, speculatively and imaginatively, using the tools of insight and reason, but not limited by them. They cannot be completely divorced from stories.

6.      PUBLIC ACCESS. Neither the rational study of personal story nor the personal story of rational study, are the exclusive province of academic departments of language and literature, psychology and psychoanalysis, sociology and cultural anthropology, philosophy or religion. They are the common concern of all men as civic and self-conscious entities. They are in the public domain.

7.      CIRCULAR FORM. Wisdom always takes the form of a circle. Within this circle there are several polarities within which the discussion of wisdom must occur: (A) narratio-ratio; (B) transcendence-grounding; and (C) orientation-alienation. 

A. NARRATIO-RATIO. Wisdom has moments both diachronic (taking place consecutively) and synchronic (taking place at the same time).  The diachronic moments we call narratio; the synchronic moments we call ratio.

       (1) Narratio is essential because self-consciousness is the metaphorical or imaginative representation of a subject in a virtual space-time, an "I" that is on a journey from birth to death, and this is what is presupposed when we ask,  "What is the meaning of life?"  It is presupposed by the question "Who am I and where am I going?"  It requires that we can tell the story of our lives. The true representation of that story to ourselves is what we mean by character.

       (2) Ratio is essential because narratio presupposes language, structure, meaning, syntax, and even logic inasmuch as the limits of logic are the limits of ego-consistency.  When we ask the "meaning of life" question it presupposes we can make sense of the story of our lives, that it has some meaning.  We expect that making sense makes sense.

       (3) The dialectical nature of the relationship between these two moments is such that not only does the story make sense but also the sense makes a story.  This is the ethical timetable, the unfolding of character. The discursive component of wisdom (ratio) takes as its primary datum the personal story (narratio) that deals with judgements evaluative of wise acts, beliefs, and chosen values.

B. TRANSCENDENCE-GROUNDING. A second circle of wisdom concerns the movements of transcendence and grounding.  We call transcendence all the acts that separate soul from immediate experiences - generalization, abstraction, verbalization, symbolization, artistic expression, experimentation, etc.  We call grounding all the acts that move soul back to the particularity of time and place, the specificity of story.

C. ORIENTATION-ALIENATION. A third circle of wisdom concerns orientation/disorientation, winning-losing-placing-showing in profane and sacred space, the play of conscious-unconscious in working out our destiny. 

8.      SPIRITUAL EXERCISES. The rational expressions of the relationships displayed in these circles are known as spiritual exercises. They constitute the rules by which the drama of life is enacted.



 - 2003 Glenn Shipley, PhD