philotimology: the art of meaning-making

AVENIR INSTITUTE, “Singularity”, 2015

AVENIR INSTITUTE, “Singularity”, 2015

“Philotimo” literally translates “love of honour” from Greek meaning the array of values, that could be summed as a “way of life”. It was regarded the highest meta-virtue in the Ancient Greek society. Philotimology as we introduced it in the context of contemporary humanities is a paradigm of “way of life” analysis, deconstruction of meaning-making and critical scrutiny of justifications of the sense in human actions. As a broad umbrella, it unites under its scope philosophy of science, epistemology, methodology, ontology, anthropology, religion, ideology, design and -disciplinarity.

The first written references mentioning philotimo are found in Pindar from 6-7 centuries BC. He refers to it as love of honour for distinction, ambition, often in negative way. More positive connotations the notion acquired during the rise of Athenian empire in 5-4 centuries BC. Thales is quoted saying 'Phitotimo to the Greek(s) is like breathing’. Homer mentions philotimo in reference to Achilles’ anger when Agamemnon took away Queen Briseis, his prize for the bravery on the battlefield. Plato read the notion critically in Republic (Book 1) as ‘desiring honour’.

The way of life is defined by the matrix of virtues and values, being a naturalised and materialised construction of the imaginary. Justice, for example, is one of the core transcultural elements recurrent in multiplicity of anthropological contexts. It is a complex constellation of values which inform the perception of ‘the right thing to do’, legacy and the future. Praxis, as the mode of active production of life (for instance in Hannah Arendt definition of ‘vita activa’) is the agency of philotimology. The methods of making (and consciously producing) meaning are the centre of philotimological inquiries.