Welcome on the bus!
The movement—why not think of it that way?—should be broad, inclusive, and welcoming. It should be global, local, and vital. It should be informal at heart and in attitude, although parts of it, or some participants, may periodically embrace a formal mechanism or tactic in order to help accomplish shared aims. But there aren’t, and won’t be, any membership cards or dues!
It should embrace and include western, eastern, southern, and northern approaches to and flavors of philosophy. After all, last I checked, the Earth involves west, east, south, and north. We share a planet, and we’re all “in this” together.
But what, then, motivates the movement? What (mere) words attempt to reflect it?
The answers to these questions can be put many different ways. Each one of us may have her or his own way of expressing them. For the most part, they should be reasonably apparent to anyone who has been reading this series and thinking about the world’s challenges and opportunities. But I’ll put them one way, in my own style, perhaps clumsily but “good enough”, as follows:
The movement involves those who think that philosophy should be relevant to life and should, with a very high and active aim, aim to improve life at all levels—personal, social, local, regional, continental, and global. The movement involves those who aim at truth, and value the quest for truth and knowledge, and even more so understanding, but who also see all of these as components of and pathways to wisdom, and who want to apply wisdom to life. The movement involves those who understand that wisdom and its fruits are realized and enjoyed in life and through life.
Perhaps more concretely, I’ve expressed my understanding of the “defining views of the Global Circle”—or, speaking more broadly and inclusively, of the movement—in an early post in this series, titled ‘Life-aims and Aimlessness’, in the form of five points. (For convenience, I’ve included the five points from that post at the end of this one, below.) And, I’ve also expressed the vital aspect and dimensions of the movement in an earlier post, titled ‘Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy’. And, I’ve expressed the context of the challenge in another post, titled ‘Alien Observations’.
If you understand and find agreement with those three posts, even if you might (and probably would) express the points they make with your own emphases and style, then you’re part of the movement, and on the bus. You don’t need a ticket or a card. You don’t need to sign up. I think it’s fair to say that all, or almost all, styles are welcome.
Indeed, even if you don’t much like the vital philosophy nomenclature, or if the contextualizing ‘Alien Observations’ post doesn’t grab you, you are still on the bus, of course, if you reasonably agree with the five points in the ‘Life-aims and Aimlessness’ post (repeated below), realizing again that there are many different ways to put those points, and this particular way is just one of the many.
Please reread those points, and consider whether you agree with them. (And please let me know if you think I’ve gotten something substantially wrong, or missed something crucial.)
Moving on …
The movement, although informal at heart (and entirely voluntary, of course!), will involve various kinds and degrees of cooperation and action to advance commonly held aims. The movement will help move us towards worthwhile and meaningful ends. Remember Einstein’s observation: “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.”
The movement will, necessarily, often value and make use of so-called insufficiently theorized agreements, both informally and formally. The movement values mutually beneficial actions. The movement will strive to recognize where there are agreements (across and among diverse philosophies and philosophers) in crucial areas relevant to the conditions of life and lives on Earth, and will encourage and perhaps even facilitate cooperative and mutually beneficial actions to try to improve them, that is, life and lives on Earth. The movement will hopefully be wise in recognizing when a disagreement over “truth” or “logic” gets in the way of living well together, and will hopefully help to find ways where living wisdom can be achieved even as disagreements over “truth” continue to exist. You get the idea.
(Again, it is important to keep in mind that I’m using the term ‘movement’ as an informal shorthand. Things need to move, to improve. In using the term, however, I don’t mean to imply a group of people with T-shirts and slogans, membership cards, and the like. Instead, I am talking here about an informal, wide, diverse assortment of people who care about the same crucial things and who care about improving the conditions of life, and lives, on Earth in the here and now and in the future.)
In another shorthand way, which must be understood in the full context of his own work, it could be said that the bus we’re talking about is the one “from knowledge to wisdom,” as Nick puts it. But again, each person will have her or his way of putting it. It’s not so very important how you would write the banner on the bus, or what colors you’d paint it, or whether you’d prefer to visualize a bus or an orchestra or an assortment of positive good ideas spreading their way through the darkness and fog. Instead, what’s more important is whether you consider yourself to be on it, very loosely speaking.
And Be Well,
Excerpts, including the five points, from the earlier post, ‘Life-aims and Aimlessness’:
“The Defining Views of the Global Circle can be expressed roughly as follows:
- The aim of philosophy has, must have, and should have something substantial to do with human flourishing and sustainability as well as the flourishing and sustainability of things upon which human flourishing and sustainability depend—importantly, the environment and non-human life. If this, broadly and charitably understood, isn’t the overarching and comprehensive aim of philosophy, it is at the very least a crucial part of that aim.
- This aim is only satisfied to the degree that the world actually becomes a better place (to be and to live) and human lives are improved, in ways broadly consistent with the aim. The aim is not satisfied merely if philosophy (as an academic discipline) flourishes even as the conditions of humankind, non-human life, and the environment deteriorate or even stagnate in their present conditions.
- The aim is always “in process” and subject to improved understanding, different and better ways of expressing it, and continual improvement. That said, because of the nature of the aim, not to mention the nature of life itself, it is not the sort of aim that one must or should “perfect” before beginning to put it into serious practice. Indeed, it is likely that the aim can never be considered “final” and “precise”, especially as expressed in words; and it is also likely that there are myriad different ways of expressing the aim, in whole or in part. Thus, the aim is a bit like living life; one must do it and apply it, to the best of one’s ability, even as one learns more about it and refines it. Understanding, expressing, improving upon, and applying the aim are parallel and interrelated processes.
- Furthermore, many of us see these views as crucial in helping to inform, inspire, and improve upon the aims, scope, and practice of academic philosophy, that is, the teaching and practice of philosophy in academia. We believe that the practice of academic philosophy, and of universities themselves (academia more broadly), should play a much more direct and active role in aiming to improve the human condition as suggested by these aims. We believe that a revitalization of philosophy in academia should, among other things, aim at a revitalization of academia itself, both aimed at making philosophy and academia more directly relevant to helping the world realize (in all senses) what is of value in life, sustainably. We believe that the pursuit and activation of wisdom, in real life and society at large, should take on a much higher priority in both philosophy and academia, and that the pursuit of knowledge should be understood as part of, and as a means to, this higher priority. (See for example Nicholas Maxwell’s ‘From Knowledge to Wisdom’.)
- The broad group of philosophers and other humans who hold these views, or something very close to them, desire to be inclusive, not exclusive. We invite sharing of all sorts, participation of all sorts, and flavors of all sorts. Our intention includes both understanding and practice, aimed at making substantial real progress according to these views.
This is all another way of saying that the aim of philosophy necessarily includes human flourishing and sustainability as well as the flourishing and sustainability of those things—other life, the biosphere, the environment—upon which human flourishing depends; and, that this aim is only satisfied to the degree that actual human flourishing and sustainability and etc. are enhanced in the real world. In contrast, it is not satisfied if ever-increasing knowledge simply stays within people’s minds as they pursue even more knowledge, or if knowledge is put to use, foolishly, in unwise ways more so than in wise ways.”