In philosophy, like any field of human inquiry and activity (for inquiry is a form of activity) there is virtue, that is, excellence in the craft. And as organisms, beings with a material nature, there are requirements for any level of virtue in the craft, let-alone brilliance. I have created a list of the main things required to become a serviceable philosopher. Most of these are required to become adequate in any field or craft, but because of both the intellectual and controversial nature of philosophy, there are added requirements:
Material resource – to become adequate at anything (or even to become anyone at-all; to be born and to continue one’s life) at-all there must be a correct formation of materials. Most of these require the simple ingredients that are necessary to become a virtuous and healthy human, so they will apply universally to the crafts and sciences of Man. The protein that builds muscle aids both the biker and the boxer, and even the writer to the extent that having a healthy bodily constitution is in aid of a healthy mind and psychology. However, certain variables like certain kinds of education and knowledge are required for some crafts and sciences. The sciences are well-known for requiring a great deal of education to become well-versed in them, and therefore capable of “performing” them (that is performing experimentation that will further the study or even perform experiment that gives knowledge already known to the common – that water is two parts oxygen and one part hydrogen for example) but what many miss is the hours (time being one of the main material sources needed) and resources of a craft (like much paint for much experimentation with style and general practice) that are needed and are taken for granted in countries of luxury. Luxury itself is a general material necessity for become a virtuoso or competent performer outside anything of one’s profession. I would like to quickly add that though I view one’s innate character and other material traits as precisely that, I will exclude them from this listing and put them in others, both because there are so many specific variables to the human psyche and constitution, and because the colloquial understanding of “material” does not incorporate the human being into its bracket. To reiterate, though Man too is a material being, I will separate all matters of psychology into other listings so I may emphasize them according to their due.
Drive or Ambition – besides the most basic material resource, this is arguably the most essential factor in being either good or great in anything. Greatness requires practice and habituation. Most people are unwilling to sacrifice a comfortable mentality of ease or the things in his or her life that give them that mentality (e.g. good social standing, money, wife, material commodities, etc) to become great. It is the weakness of men that prevent them from becoming anything short of mediocrities in life; however, I will not go further into this because I am bleeding into another one of my list sections.
Ability to sacrifice all commitments and comforts to one’s craft – Though I stated it in the above listing, it deserves its own for it is its own requirement for virtue. Most of the things I list here are not binary, that is, it is not an all-or-nothing game of whether the person lacks it or not, and whether the person can become anything worthy of expectation or even admiration in any given activity that men take part in. Material resource is the most obvious one, for there are many who are lacking but have enough to get by, and because of this they are mediocre (rather than corpses) but did not have the material resource to dedicate themselves to a craft and become great. Obviously there are those who defeat daunting conditions and become virtuosos, but this is merely an acknowledgement of the importance of will and sacrifice. If one is unwilling to give up anything (time spent doing other things being the most obvious and general one) then one will never become more than a mediocrity at anything. Schopenhauer in particular mentions the sacrifice of social relations among other things required for genius. Today’s world is truly the world of mediocrity through the forces and psyche of bourgeois culture and Capitalism in particular. For in what other society, other than Capitalism, does the word “serviceable” in-regards to “good enough” become a satisfactory remark to one’s pride or being. In what other society, does one evaluate what one is not by what he does, but by what he has and what he is seen to be in relation to others; though the latter is an attribute in any hierarchical society. Only in a society where one views his worth and meaning in this existence by what he does evaluating who he is by his actions and not by what these skills grant him or even others. Science is used to benefit mankind, but one cannot become a great scientist by saying, “I will help others now!” He must dedicate himself in a way that is called at-times “self-interestingly” (for he is focusing on growing himself even if it is to aid others ultimately; though many scientists love science for the love of knowledge and knowing, and helping others is merely a necessary benefit of knowledge as long as ulterior interests do not come into play) and say “I will learn the craft and apply myself!” if he is to become even a mediocrity. Perhaps here is a good time to say that I considered putting culture one the list of prerequisites, but decided not to for though it is necessary in many people becoming anything great (and is a large factor in why they become what they are) there will always be those who can retain the virtue in Man or in any craft regardless of the decadence, weakness or general poor value-judgments and social arrangements in any society.
Ability to scrutinize one’s own craft and suffer – This applies specifically for those who wish to achieve greatness rather than simple adequacy. One must be able to be impartial and even scrutinizing of the work one has made if any significant improvement is to occur. This applies less-so to the arts, for their craft is in largely unconscious skills such as arm and finger movements. However, in writing or anything that is innately a craft of higher consciousness or science, being critical is of higher importance because it is more likely to produce a greater result. While scrutiny in painting is important if one is being sloppy, or doing something improperly, in general one may simply be suffering from lack of practice or the specific psychology that produces an aptitude in the arts. I will get to this point momentarily, but before I do so, I’d like to reiterate that though joy (broadly speaking) is the main incentive behind any virtue, if one is not willing to suffer, then it is essentially impossible that one will become anything other than serviceable. The neuro-plasticity of the brain is something we learn more of even in our modern era, but such ability to grow and become more requires often a degree and consistency in volition and efforts that will produce mental anxieties comparable to the strain placed on the muscles when one is exercising them to reach higher potential.
Psychological Character – Some crafts appeal to those of certain kinds. Some clearly, for example, have an aptitude for kindness, courtesy, patience and punctuality – and work in the service industry seems well fit for them. And though such careers seem like the designation for a mediocrity, we must remember there is virtue in all human activity, and excellence to be achieved regardless of the social utility of such actions. Also our society depends (until we automate all physical labor) on the “common virtue” just as much as it does the higher virtues of intelligence (as conventionally understood), creativity and others necessary for excellence in the fields of science and philosophy. To be a virtuoso in anything, one must possess the frame of mind necessary to both wish to apply one’s self to the craft or science, and also to naturally find aptitude via one’s state-of-mind while others struggle and can becoming more-than serviceable through far-more effort – but are unlikely to ever be great. This applies specifically to philosophy, for it is something that is not encouraged (and in some ways is implicitly discouraged) in our society; fields like philosophy that do not receive public support require more innate psychological “alignment” with the nature of the field and more motivation which in-part will be caused by the individual’s psychology.
Intelligence – I use this word broadly, for there is an intelligence behind becoming a virtuoso in all things, including things that are almost entirely instinctual. One must learn how to contort the body, how to do what others view as unnatural and not in the field of human activity. Virtuosos in the activity of billiards for example, have a type of intelligence in foreseeing how one ball will hit several, and where they will go at what speed. For philosophy however, there is a necessity for the type of intelligence that is the understanding of the laymen – “book smarts.” There is of course, far-more to philosophy than deductive and inductive skills, but the ability to see wide and far is in-part a product of such intelligence. Creativity is also of key importance however.
Creativity – Creativity takes many forms in humans. For it, of course, refers simply to an act of uniqueness, authenticity and creation from within one’s mind and not referring to text or recipe as source of material creation. Art is of course the most obvious example. Human existence above the “animal” life would be impossible without creativity, as it would be without intelligence. Creativity in philosophy takes the form of abstract thinking, of coming to unique conclusions and exploring the horizons of mental speculation and potential, of creating new ideas even if such ideas were inspired by another text (for all things in creation have another source, or “inspiration” for its existence) and such a notion was pondered long before this philosopher’s birth. The idea is sincerely new to him, it is a genuine epiphany of his own mind, which is all that matters in-regards to “intellectual” creativity. Or creativity of any kind for that matter, applying the type of discovery to the form of creativity it is of course.
Innate compulsion to ask questions rather than refer to status-quo for answer – This one is unique to intellectual virtues. However, a similar virtue is essential for all artists or creative people. Here however I’m not referring to straying from norms, but simply the impulse to ask “why?” that is unique to the intellectual character of humans. Since this seems to be self-evident to all those who know the nature of philosophy and other intellectual pursuits generally, I will move on to the next.
Lack of concern for the opinions of others while still being able to listen to criticism – We have been told that in the arts and in life we must trust our “gut” or instinct. And while this gut tells us nothing about the nature of reality, it is a proper guide for growth in the arts and towards one’s own unique virtues (in the Materialist sense, not the subjective sense. That is, one cannot define virtue or determine what their own personal good-and-bad is; however, one can acknowledge they have a particular set of virtues, that would be such even if they did not acknowledge them or acknowledge them as virtues) and “view” in the crafts and sciences. The artist for example, may have to “trust his gut” and pursue a new field of artistic expression, and may even have to suffer poverty and censorship in times of elitist snobbery or conservatism in the arts. And though a great baker typically does not need to break away from the norms of society to be uniquely him or herself, they will need to listen to their inner judge that may differ from those around them (this is especially difficult in terms of cuisine since the taste buds in humans differ and there is no intellectual content to judge; only the virtues of the food’s temperature, consistency and so on, similar to how one judges a piece of visual art). There is however a fine tight-rope to walk here. For though one should always value their “inner-judge” they should also be able to be impartial (and scrutinize, as I said earlier) and listen to criticism, especially criticism of the well-informed and experienced in said craft or science. And finally –
Lack of satisfaction with “average” existence and mundane trivialities – this fits very-well with the general necessity of ambition, for the two seem to (especially regarding the more noble activities Man can perform) be in concert with each other quite consistently. It is indeed the great sin of life to be wholly content, to be satisfied with things as they are both in the personal and the social. This is of course another great sin of Capitalist culture, and the lacking of such contentment is of course a cliché in the realm of the anxiety-ridden artist or neurotic intellectual – for those who require source material I recommend the films of Woody Allen. It is the man who accepts existence via Ego who accepts sensual pleasures and “taking” rather than “giving.” The man who lives life via Aestheticism however will have a deep craving to apply themselves and create, yes for the joy it gives them, but also for the sole act of creation. For with the virtue of creation itself, yes, with the very essence of virtue, we must resign to the fact that it is the act and not the product that is to be valued primarily – in the confines of what is virtuous to the respective craft or science, and more loosely to the health of the individual. However, in-regards to the health of society, the effects are of course what have primacy, though it should be noted that action of living individuals is still of social utility to keep advances coming, to keep society healthy and to keep the world from becoming stale and stagnant – for otherwise we would be forever satisfied with the effects of “replicating” virtue in the form of recordings and automations, and find no value in the excellence of a grand orchestra known for being the crème de la crème of their field. We must forever appreciate the virtuoso for who they are and view what they do for us as simply an essential by-product of virtuous action – for though it is a by-product, all virtues tend to have social utility or appreciation. There is little virtue (and though little it can paradoxically require traits that are necessary in fields that are virtuous in being related to human health and potential) or arête in tooth-pick tower building and stamp-collecting.