Phi Beta Kappa

April 25, 2008 by  

While getting ready for work today, I had a chance to listen to Dr. Leonard Peikoff‘s most recent podcast about the philosophy of Ayn Rand (Podcast #13). In it, Dr. Peikoff was asked:

What is the purpose of philosophy?

He encapsulated his answer with the first sentence of his reply:

Phi beta kappa: philosophy as the guide to life.

Intrigued, I did a bit of quick googling, and discovered the following, which I now share with you.

Phi beta and kappa are, of course, the Greek letters Phi, Beta, and Kappa, respectively. In this context, phi beta kappa is an acronym for the words: philosophia biou kubernetes.

Philosophia is, of course, a word that means philosophy. Philo translates to “love”, and sophia to “wisdom” or “knowledge”. Thus, you will normally see philosophia and philosophy defined as “the love of knowledge” or “the love of wisdom”. However, philosophia actually refers to the activity or practice of obtaining knowledge, not merely to the passive loving of it.

Biou is a reference to life.

Kubernetes is a reference to the helmsman or ruler of a ship; to that which steers ones course.

Combined with biou, kubernetes, we have a reference to: that which is life’s guide. Combined also with philosophia, we have a phrase that means: the pursuit of wisdom is life’s guide. More succinctly: philosophy is life’s guide. Thus Dr. Peikoff’s answer that the purpose of philosophy is to guide ones life.

All of which suggests a great vanity plate for your car: FI B8A KPA

Last one to the licensing kiosk is a rotten egg.


One Response to “Phi Beta Kappa”

  1. Hugh MacIntyre on April 29th, 2008 10:01 am

    Phi Beta Kappa is also a fraternity house that is next to my own fraternity house. What are the chances, do you think, that the acronym stands for the same thing 😉

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