To be a lover of Wisdom we must know that we lack Wisdom in the first place, else we would not seek Her out in
order to be Her companion ("philo" means love in the sense of "friendship," or "amity"). This is why the
philosophical branch of epistemology is at the center of the 7-Fold "Seed of Wisdom" (aka the "Seed of Life"), pictured above.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge (Grk: "episteme"/Lat: "scientia"). Moreover, it is the study of just how we know what we know.
A few of the ancient Hellenistic schools called themselves "Skeptics" (Grk: "skeptomai", "to consider", to "examine").
They questioned how we are qualified to actually "know" anything at all. Some of the Ancient Skeptics were even skeptical of their own skepticism,
wondering if maybe they did know something after all, namely that perhaps conventional "knowledge" derived from everyday experience was sufficient,
even if that knowledge was not really "True" in an ultimate, ontological sense. By pulling the epistemological rug out from underneath the entire
enterprise of Hellenistic Philosophy, they achieved a state of robust mental equilibrium (Grk: "ataraxia") not unlike a "zen" state. Eventually,
Skepticism helped to play a pivotal role in the development of the philosophy of modern science via Empiricism (from the 3rd century Pyrrhonist
Skeptic, Sextus Empiricus). Renee Descartes even used skepticism in the service of Rationalist philosophy, clearing the epistemological ground to
prepare the way for his famous ontological axiom: "cogito, ergo sum" ("I think therefore I am").
Skepticism, therefore, via epistemology, is the sure way to win the steadfast friendship
of Lady Wisdom, as one is ever examining oneself and finding oneself lacking in certain knowledge of the Truth. One thereby strives to free oneself of
cognitive, logical, and behavioral errors in order to more clearly apprehend the Truth, however hypothetical. A radical epistemology like this also allows
for the simultaneous juxtaposition of a number of conflicting philosophical views, each of which is coherent in its own right, and which can show forth the
relative strengths and weaknesses of the others with which it is juxtaposed. For instance, combining an Empirical natural philosophy (modern science) with
a Neoplatonist metaphysics and Buddhist "non-tologies" such as Madhyamaka and Yogacara produces interesting results which reinforce each other, allowing for
stimulating and productive dialectic between Skeptics, Pragmatists, Phenomenologists, Scientists, Buddhists, Yogins, Vedantins, and the members of the three Abrahamic faiths:
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, via the Neoplatonism of St. Augustine, Avicenna, and Philo Judaeus, respectively.
Since what is ultimately ontologically and metaphysically True is
(probably) unknowable, at least as far as empirical phenomena are concerned, it should be considered a matter of private personal preference.
It is my own contention as a Skeptic (and incidentally, it is also the official position of most modern governments as per the separation of church and state) that ontology, metaphysics, and aesthetics are a matter of personal and cultural taste and so they are grouped
together in the lower triad of the Seed of Wisdom, called the Triad of Inspiration. This placement is not at all meant to diminish these important branches of philosophy since they are
deeply psychological, dealing primarily with the aesthetic ordering of the human psyche [Grk: "psūkhē", meaning "life", "breath"]. The ancient philosophers
considered this part of our reality necessary for human flourishing [eudaimonia], especially inasmuch as the Pythagoreans, Plato, and even Heraclitus
subscribed to some form of "attunement theory" of the soul. They conceived
of the body and soul as strung together, uniting oppositional forces by means of strings, as on a lyre, which needed to be tuned in order to produce
a harmony. Nevertheless, as musical tuning systems diverge from region to region, these tunings of the soul tend to vary from culture to culture, and
from individual to individual, while the conceptual use of a tuning system appears to be quite common among human societies from very early on.
The upper triad of the Seed of Wisdom is called the Triad of Inquiry, and
is composed of what can be considered matters of the public domain. They are issues concerning the collective consciousness of human beings, and so
must be based on evidence, not opinion (however True that opinion may be within the realm of one's own private worldview, which, if it genuinely seeks
the Truth, must partake of the intellectual humilty which causes one to admit what one does not in fact know). These collective issues are the means
by which we move forward as a civilization: science, ethics, and critical thinking. All of these seek to correct the errors inherent in our mind and
our behavior as human beings. As we seek to free ourselves from cognitive and logical fallacies using the "Liberation Epistemology" of the Pyrrhonist
Skeptics, David Hume, and Francis Bacon, we are well on our way to seeing ourselves, our world, and ourselves in it in a way that is more precise,
predictable, and probable, even if it is not ontologically or metaphysically more true, necessary, or certain.
Ultimately however, regardless of whether or
not one chooses to have faith in the concept of metaphysical or ontological Truth, as fallible human beings we still need to cleanse the lenses of
our perception and cognition, for in either case, "we see through a glass, darkly." Whether or not we will "see face to face" (or whether we are
actually looking in a mirror, after all) is a matter which has not yet been worked out in a manner which satisfies everyone, but the dialectic allowed
via radical skepticism (I may not even know that I know nothing) allows us to hone our instruments of reason in order to further clear away error, and to
come nearer to Truth thereby, even if that Truth is ultimately unknowable.
"Of those whose discourses I have heard there is not one who attains to the realization that Wisdom stands apart from all else."
- Heraclitus, Fragment 108
"Using E-Prime, you will understand modern science and Zen Buddhism both, a lot better than you've ever understood them before."
-Robert Anton Wilson