The Loving Gaze: Philosophical Contemplation and the World as Gift

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Bell, David F

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By looking at different conceptions of what it means to be human, this essay explores the question of the convergence of philosophical contemplation and the loving contemplation of God. Since the birth of philosophy as the love of wisdom, the simultaneous incommensurability and inseparability of philosophy as theory and philosophy as practice has become more and more problematic over the years; the insurmountable nature of this problem seems to have dissolved, in our present day and age, into a decidedly theoretical conception of philosophy--so much so, in fact, that the original aim of philosophy to affect our daily lives seems to have vanished altogether from the broad scope of contemporary academia, and indeed, from modern-day life as a whole. The present-day fixation upon absolute objective reality has grown into the dangerously superficial understanding of what it means to be human as ultimately reducible to rational explanation, and this is evident everywhere from the university classroom to the ostensible worthlessness of contemplative life. In forcing oneself to be reawakened to the original wonder that was the occasion for the inception of philosophy, one may discover that the wonder itself is not only concerned with rational explanation, but is rather the occasion that we have, even in the simplest and most basic of our everyday activities, to discover that what binds us all together as finite beings in a finite world is mystery, gratitude, and love. With respect to human nature, knowledge, the creative and poetic imagination, and our confrontations with death and suffering, it is only within the philosophical act, whereby we acknowledge the limits of our finitude and the boundlessness of our love, that we may ever hope to discover that which enables not just a theory well-formed, but a life well lived.






Klein, Julia Howard (2011). The Loving Gaze: Philosophical Contemplation and the World as Gift. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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