In the Louvre hangs a Rembrandt painting titled Philosopher in Meditation. The painting presents an old man, richly illuminated by golden light streaming through the window, in a room dominated by a sturdy and winding staircase leading to the floor above. If we use this 18th century title for this 17th century painting, we can interpret the scene as suggesting that the philosopher gains wisdom by decades of repeatedly climbing aloft and descending. The painting symbolizes the experience of insight in the lofty and grounded meditative thinking essential to philosophical living.
When Socrates had the chance to flee from prison, he decided to remain and drink the hemlock poison, following philosophical reason rather than emotion. He made his decision by logically reasoning about the implications of (1) the supreme value reality—goodness—and (2) the facts of his life as a citizen of Athens and the fact that he had been convicted (even if wrongly) in accord with its laws.
In philosophical living, we make good decisions by integrating the meanings of facts and values.
Any further observations about the paintings? Could you give an example of an important decision you have faced or are now facing? How would you interpret the meaning of the relevant facts and values?