A Surprisingly Communal Activity

Someone whom I respect has described philosophy as "a surprisingly communal activity," or maybe it was "communal affair," or something else to that effect. The "surprising" part about philosophy being a communal activity is that it is often surprising when it unfolds that way. We tend to think of philosophy as something done with the door closed, the curtains drawn, and the fire smoldering- so as to prevent unwanted pollution from seeping into 'pure' subjectivity. The daily routine of the philosopher is one of ordered discipline, faithfully attending to his duties, methodically working through his tasks, shutting out the unwanted noise. And yet, in those moments when the door swings open, the curtains are pulled back, and the prattle from the outside finds its way in, philosophy tends to happen. There is no predicting how it will happen, there is no law-like regularity to how it unfolds. It is the product of uncertainty, of speculation, and of what I am now saying is most surprising of all: communal activity.