The Ten Most Consequential New Ideas?
Please note: I’ve shifted the order of two posts, and I’ve renamed this one to ‘The Ten Most Consequential New Ideas?’ from ‘Intricate Nuanced Demure Ideas’. But never-mind the administrative details. Here we go …
This post involves a request to readers, one that will hopefully get us thinking and help each of us consider the present state of affairs in concrete terms.
The request is this: Please identify one or more of what you believe to be the ten most consequential new findings or ideas to come out of—that is, result from—academic philosophy in the last fifty years.
The point here is not to attempt to rank-order them or to attempt any sort of consensus, both of which aims would likely be impossible and perhaps meaningless anyhow. Instead, the point is merely to prompt each of us to think about the matter, to identify to each other some of the most consequential findings and ideas in our various opinions, to allow us all to reflect on the results, and to see what discussion might ensue, and what we might learn.
To begin the process, and as an example, I’ll suggest the so-called veil of ignorance, from John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971). Although I’m not an historian of ideas, it’s my understanding that the essence of this idea was not entirely new, but nevertheless Rawls propelled it to center stage and, I expect, elaborated and improved upon it. Too, I can’t personally point to a major concrete instance in which a recent application of the idea “changed the world”; goodness knows that, in theory anyhow, there are many applications of it that could substantially improve the world, if someone could figure out a way to actually motivate society at large to embrace such good ideas. However, at least in my case, I do find myself occasionally using the idea to try to explain to someone how we should try to address certain problems in society by using it. (To my knowledge, nobody has ever taken me up on the proposal, unless it somehow served their own immediate interests to do so, given the place in society they already knowingly occupied.) That said, it seems to me that this idea is, or at least is potentially, a highly consequential idea, and worth listing.
In any case, in the interest of fairly assessing the state of philosophy today, at least in one important sense, will others please continue the list? Thanks in advance for your participation!
The Ten Most Consequential New Findings or Ideas to
Result From Academic Philosophy in the Last Fifty Years