I know, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue: Phil-life-sophy. But what is it?
One night in the fall of 2008 during my first semester of graduate school, I was alone in my apartment wondering what I was up to pursuing a PhD in philosophy. It all felt somewhat accidental, especially because I didn’t initially intend to major in philosophy in college, and once I got into it, I never really felt “at home” in the typical realm of academic philosophy.
I dove deep into some sort of nervous breakdown or existential crisis or stream of consciousness that led me back to one of the most transformative insights I learned, which is the feedback look and need for self-reflexivity that got me interested in philosophy in the first place:
- Good philosophy should inform our lives in meaningful ways so that we can live better.
- Our real lives should also inform (how we do) philosophy so that is relevant, personal, pertinent, and grounded in meaningful experience.
So, as one would expect from a philosopher, I put these principles together to create an awkward neologism that could capture the meaning and serve as a short-hand reminder for myself about what I was really up to, just in case I ever veered off-track due to peer pressure, weakness of will, or disillusionment about the value of academic philosophy. Just as I had hoped it would, it’s stuck with me through all my projects over the years.
* * *
Thus, my philifesophy is something quite particular. I suppose it is the closest thing to a serious answer when someone asks, “So, if you’re a philosopher, what is your philosophy on life?”
My philifesophy is an array of critical concepts and values that are rooted in ideas, theories, and concepts I’ve learned from teachers, theorists, scholars, authors, mentors, and friends. Some people I know personally. Some I’ve never met. Some I’ve only read, while others are long dead.
The mere articulation of their ideas carries a unique power and timelessness to shape and inform our understanding of complex experiences and realities. For me, their concepts have helped me better discern and define my life and my location in the world. They have helped me understand my identities. They have helped me understand my own questions. They have helped me navigate through some of my most difficult and painful experiences. And they have helped me hold space for greater love, joy, and pleasure.
In other words, the thoughtful work of others has been for me what María Lugones and Elizabeth Spelman would refer to as “good theory.”
I also understand myphilifesophy as my own personal practice of reflecting on my life, as a way of living out my commitment to social justice and liberation. In that way, what I think about is not always academic or academically informed.
Over the past few years, my philifesophy has expanded to encompass my practice of seeking continual growth and healing, which takes on many forms. More often than not these days, the concepts and values that inform my process are quite connected to my feelings, emotions, and personal relationships. Sometimes it’s me unearthing and getting to know my fears. Sometimes, it’s just critical self-reflection about actual aspects of my life, who I am, and the world in which I live.
As much as possible, it is self-reflexive.
Because my philifesophy is so personal, it makes sense for me to share it here as an entry point for demonstrating how one might practice feminist friendship. There are many things and ways one could share with others to build connections of intimacy and community for liberation.
This is my way of opening up, being vulnerable, and sharing some of the most intimate aspects of my experience so that others might learn from them.
Yes, I suspect one will learn much more about me, Cori Wong, than if I didn’t share in such a public way. But, as always, some of our most difficult work is learning to better see ourselves as others see us, so I offer these reflections with the hope that we all might learn more about ourselves, too, so that we can better connect.