Philosophy 101

In high school, I had a philosophy teacher, François Bremondy, who was just exceptional. He became a good friend, and ever since I finished my high school exams, we’ve gotten into the habit of regularly meeting up to have dinner and talk.

I was always fascinated by his mix of skeptical optimism, his caring sarcasm, his romantic ambitions that he hid beneath the features of a wise elder. I don’t know if he was ever really young; I’ve never been able to imagine him that way.

Thanks to his inspiration, and notwithstanding his warnings (more or less explicit, depending on the moment), I decided to study philosophy at university. It was… not great. And it had nothing in common with the person who had so captivated and enthralled me.

Years later—quite recently, actually—I realized that individuals always break free of their categories, and that my teacher was an entrepreneur of philosophy. And I realized most philosophy texts aren’t really that interesting. They merely serve as justifications for their fans, letting people benefit from that social proof (meaning the texts are really just there to justify one’s own thoughts, one’s own ideas).

Like all fields of human activity, philosophy is corrupted by our need to shine and to be carried to the summit by true believers. Loving philosophy can’t be about finding validation in the texts of great authors, you have to want to be their equal. And in the same way, entrepreneurs who seek out mentors only to then submit to their views are never as interesting as those who find mentors in order to speak to them as equals.

Philosophy can change someone’s perspective; a book can change the course of history. An entrepreneur can also change the course of things. Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly our contemporary philosophy: in its essence, a practice that over time is distilled into a theory.

So remember that in general, the worst books of philosophy are those that are detached from the real world. It’s crazy just how similar that is to entrepreneurship.

If you want to get into philosophy, do it both lightly and sincerely. Try to think for yourself, don’t just recite what others have said. And if you want to become an entrepreneur, build, don’t theorize.

Thank you, François, because it took me a long time to understand the real lesson from your class. I hope that in my own way I’m able to inspire others with that same lesson, even in a different field.

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