One must hate literature in order to be a philosopher

To the Philosopher

I have brought out two books this year. One of them as I was moved thereto by God Himself, the other because of the slander of men.

Some of those who wear the white or dark mantle [Pagans and Christians] have maintained that I am faithless to philosophy, apparently because I profess grace and harmony of style, and because I venture to say something concerning Homer and concerning the figures of the rhetoricians. In the eyes of such persons one must hate literature in order to be a philosopher, and must occupy himself with divine matters only. No doubt these men alone have become spectators of the knowable. …

A letter from student to teacher; Synesius of Cyrene (370-413) to neoplatonist Hypatia of Alexandria (355-415)

Through these years of the Christians’ brutal attempts to dismantle philosophy, and the violent abuse and murder of philosophers such as Hypatia, Synesius wrote.

He wrote homilies. He wrote letters. He wrote speeches. He wrote essays.

There is no excuse not to write, and every reason to do so.

6 thoughts on “One must hate literature in order to be a philosopher”

  1. Between us, even though I grew up with religion, I find it less fluid to be useful for myself. The basic premise of taking good care of each other is often overlooked in favor of various interpretations of rules. One of the great religious leaders boiled it down to say that we need simply live by love. The rest will be covered under that rule. I get bits and pieces of philosophy from my sister, who seems brilliant on the theme. It’s all part of the soup, I guess. 🙂

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  2. I like your gutsy proclamation. You embolden other writers. I was reminded of you when I was reading an article about Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Regarding a famous line from ‘Closer’, the film director David Fincher says, “Who the hell is this guy?These are ideas I hide from myself”.


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