On my recent post about the ascent-descent and intimacy-integrity classifications in philosophy, skholiast asks an important question: “what is the itch in us to make such schematisms?” What is the point of trying to classify philosophies this way? Clearly many philosophers do attempt to so classify them – but is that anything more than the kind of obsessive interest that characterizes Asperger’s syndrome?
I thought of one important answer to this question because of some friends who are interested in Frithjof Schuon and his fellows in the Perennialist or Traditionalist School of thought. The members of this school believed, and continue to believe, in a philosophia perennis, a kind of philosophical wisdom that persists across cultures throughout the ages. Central to this perennial philosophy is the idea of an ultimate Reality distinguishable from the everyday world we perceive with our senses – an ultimate One which Plato, Śaṅkara, and Zhu Xi might all arguably be said to have found, more or less entirely independently of one another. The perennialists tend to believe that the reason so many came to this conclusion in so many places is because it was the truth – it was really there, to be observed or deduced by any human being anywhere if they cared to take a serious look.
As for me, one reason I find classification of philosophies so important is that I’m only willing to meet the perennialists halfway. Continue reading