Vital Philosophy revisited

What a fitting and crucial time to embrace and begin to employ Vital Philosophy, Global Philosophy, or whatever else you might prefer to call it—philosophy soundly grounded in the existence of life within a very real universe, and oriented toward the sustainability of life and the realization in all senses of what is of value in life, for all people and all life!

After all, these are rather dark times in more than one sense:  Today is the darkest day of the year; nature, at least, will begin to bathe the world in more of her light day by day as we move into the New Year.  However, when it comes to our own human roles in matters—including the immense problems of our own creation—it will be up to us to choose whether we want to understand, what to think, and what to do.

As someone named Bob once said, the times they are a-changin’.  Many observers are now saying that humankind’s impact on the environment has become so large that we’ve entered a new epoch, requiring a new name: They suggest ‘The Anthropocene.’  Whether you like the idea and name or not, or whether you think they epitomize, celebrate, and perpetuate the problem or, instead, bring necessary critical attention to it, either way, the substance of our situation is such that it calls for much better understanding, new thinking, new attitudes, more responsibility, more humility on the part of humankind in relationship with the rest of nature, and other changes that I hesitate to try to put into words in such a brief post.

(For great context, see the Global Circle post Challenging the Anthropocene, by Ronnie Hawkins (November 15), in which she refers us to the excellent essay by Eileen Crist, ‘On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature,’ which can be found here:  http://environmentalhumanities.org/arch/vol3/3.7.pdf  )

What better time, then—what more necessary time—to embrace and employ a philosophy—or rather an approach to and vision of philosophy—that aims to understand and actively improve the conditions of life, life, and lives as part of and in healthy relationship with the natural world, in concert with the principles and (yes) limits of nature within which we must exist!  What better time to embrace a philosophy that genuinely loves and values wisdom, her application, and her fulfillment!  What better time to embrace and employ a philosophy that aims “to bring wisdom to life!”  What more necessary time to understand why and how we humans are creating problems for ourselves and for the rest of the community of life, and to strive to change our thinking, address those problems at their causal roots, and move forward into much more healthy, just, and sustainable relationships with each other and with the rest of the natural world!  What better time?

I began this series on so-called Vital Philosophy with two posts:  Vital Philosophy and Global Philosophy (September 15), and Vital Philosophy—a timely series (September 18).

I followed with a post, Life-aims and Aimlessness (September 26) in which I outlined, in my own style, what I understand to be the main defining views and agreements relevant to the Global Circle, or more broadly speaking, to the movement, evolution, revolution or transformation: in Nick’s shorthand, “from knowledge to wisdom.”

(Of course, there are related and deeply complementary dimensions to the movement, evolution, revolution or transformation as well:  For example, as long as we use the terms with care, we can speak of changes in attitude and understanding from those of ‘separateness’ to those of ‘relationship and wholeness.’)

Apart from this “afterword” post, I concluded the series with the post, The ground we stand on (December 19).  In-between the bookend posts, we covered a great deal of territory, I hope helpfully, including (among other things) some observations and criticisms of academic philosophy as it’s often presently practiced.  (I admit that there are notable exceptions to these criticisms, of course, and also that they have sometimes simplified a more complex picture.  Yet there is a great deal of truth in them, as I hope most readers have recognized.)  Also, and importantly, I’ve included some very concrete thoughts about necessary next steps, about how to begin.

Finally, in closing, I’d like to offer two brief reminders, for convenience, and then a question.

First, a reminder of three of the senses of the word ‘vital’ that contribute to what I mean by the concept of Vital Philosophy:

Vital Philosophy—Vi-Phi—is …

Vital— in the sense of having to do with life; involving life; regarding life and the things that enable and enrich life.  Of course, as we have discussed, life is part of and within the broader natural universe.

Vital— in the sense of relevant to life; necessary to life; crucial.

Vital— in the sense of lively and alive; active; energetic; advancing.  Here, even the aim of Vital Philosophy is never dead or final, and is always subject to being better understood and advancing—in other words, the aim itself should be considered alive.

Second, as another sort of reminder, I’d like to offer again some of the most relevant quotes I’ve used throughout the series:

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.

– Albert Einstein

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.

– Albert Einstein

… but all the relevant facts were outside the range of their vision.  They were like the ant, which can see small objects but not large ones.

– George Orwell, 1984

What good am I if I know and don’t do?

– Bob Dylan, What Good Am I?

Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it is none.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

 

And finally, I’ll conclude with a timely question:  What are we waiting for?  Quinn the Eskimo?

 

Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) 

By Bob Dylan

Ev’rybody’s building the big ships and the boats
Some are building monuments
Others, jotting down notes
Ev’rybody’s in despair
Ev’ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev’rybody’s gonna jump for joy

Come all without, come all within
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet
But guarding fumes and making haste
It ain’t my cup of meat
Ev’rybody’s ’neath the trees
Feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him

Come all without, come all within
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

A cat’s meow and a cow’s moo, I can recite ’em all
Just tell me where it hurts yuh, honey
And I’ll tell you who to call
Nobody can get no sleep
There’s someone on ev’ryone’s toes
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev’rybody’s gonna wanna doze

Come all without, come all within
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

 

Thanks for your consideration, and Be Well!

The ground we stand on

Today I’ll address two different but related topics.  The first involves the collection of views and agreements upon which the mission of the Global Circle stands, as I understand them.  The second involves an outline of my view regarding the much deeper ground upon which the whole matter stands.

It’s important and helpful to keep in mind the differences between these two things.  A philosopher or any other person can agree, more or less, with the views and agreements upon which the Global Circle stands, without agreeing entirely (or even much at all) with my view about the much deeper ground.  That is, people may have different underlying theories and “reasons for” agreeing to the basic shared aims and views of the Global Circle, to the need for a transition in emphasis (as Nick puts it) “from knowledge to wisdom,” to the aim of (as he puts it) helping humankind discover and actually achieve what is of value in life, to the aim of facing and addressing our major global problems (many of them self-imposed), and to the aim of achieving a just and sustainable future for humans and for the biosphere on which we all depend.  You may have your underlying theory and reasons for doing this, Nick his, Sally Jones hers, Bob Smith his, and me mine.

In a sense, we can join together in, advocate for, rally around, and try to cooperatively implement wisdom even as we each maintain slightly or moderately different views of truth, different underlying theories, and different reasons.

If this distinction isn’t already clear, it will be soon.

To the first topic, then …

Recall, please, the so-called “Defining Views of the Global Circle” as suggested in my early post, ‘Life-aims and Aimlessness’ and also in the more recent post, ‘Welcome on the bus!’  These five points are my own way of putting what I understand to be the main substantive agreements we, or at least most of us, share in common.  Of course, being philosophers and philosophical people, each of us will likely have her/his own way of putting them, as it should be.  Some might narrow the substance a bit, or make it more specific.  Others might broaden it a bit, or prefer a slight shift in emphases.  Each of us, if asked to write our own understanding of the matter, would apply her/his own style.  And, some of us might even hope, and try, to include substance that goes beyond the shared agreements and views themselves, and begin to include parts of our own underlying theories and “reasons for.”

In any case, because these five points can be understood as agreements, or at least as approximate views about which we agree, they can be thought of as insufficiently theorized agreements.  We each hold them, more or less, but we may each have the same theory, slightly different theories, or substantially different theories and reasons for doing so.  So be it.

Indeed, at this point it might help to note that any theory or understanding of wisdom that understands wisdom to be something more than, and different from, just “a whole lotta truth,” must see value in, and embrace, genuine and wise insufficiently theorized agreements.  In a regime that values only truth, insufficiently theorized agreements are second-class citizens, if they are citizens at all, and if they are even recognized as anything better than admissions of failure (because they don’t achieve agreement on theory).  In contrast, in a philosophy that values wisdom, applied wisdom, and helping each and every person to discover and achieve what is of value in life, insufficiently theorized agreements will frequently be the rules rather than the exceptions (so to speak); and where they are genuine and wise, they’ll yield immense value, very much unlike the case in which two people stand on a shoreline arguing endlessly about truth while a child drowns in the lake, only fifteen feet offshore.

That said, applying wisdom (what wisdom we can manage) and continuing to pursue truth and knowledge are two parallel and intimately interrelated processes, of course.  The living application of wisdom can’t wait for all final truths (or Truth) to be discovered and agreed; but the living application of wisdom continues to seek truth and knowledge as it tries to develop itself, and live wisely and well.

That brings me to the second topic …

(Necessarily, the following discussion is greatly abbreviated—more of an outline than a discussion, let alone a thorough discussion.)

What, then, is the deep ground upon which my own view stands?  That is, what is the “ground” for my underlying theory and, thus, for my reasons for holding the views and agreeing to the agreements that define the mission as I see it?

In several words: life, the nature of life, and life as part of the natural real universe.

Put another way, the “ground” upon which we stand is rooted, contextualized, and vital life.  Life is also the ground we live in and with.  Rooted (in the universe itself), in-context, and vital life constitutes the ground.

Allow me to elaborate, in abbreviated form.

The core of my own existence and being is my body-brain-and-mind.  The core of your existence and being is your body-brain-and-mind.  And so forth.  Prefer what you will—I think, therefore I am; I feel, therefore I am; I move, therefore I am; or etc.—we each are where we are, are what we are, are who we are, and “start” where we are, and we each live and experience life through and from the perspective of our body-brain-and-minds.  Of course, this point is nothing new.

My sensory organ (broadly and inclusively speaking)—my primary means of sensual connection with the rest of existence—is also my body, and more specifically my various senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing, vision, and perhaps one or two others which we haven’t put our fingers on, yet, all with their final seats of experience in the brain.

My body and, ultimately, my brain-mind are the central headquarters of my experiences in, research regarding, and learning about myself, my immediate surroundings, and the broader world in which I live.  They are my point of integration and integrity, so to speak.  As the Beatles put it, but interpreted for purposes of our present context, “Come together, right now, over me.”  My body and, ultimately, my brain-mind are also the repositories of my experiences and memories, to the degree that I have and hold them, subconsciously or consciously.  Of course, none of this is new, either.

Of course—and crucially—all of these things (me and my senses and etc.) are within and part of my (and the) environment.  In other words, I am part of the universe, part of nature.  I am not separate from her, removed from her.  I and my senses are part of the natural universe, contextualized in it, dependent on it, and interdependent with other parts and aspects of it.  Both I and my roots are in the natural universe.  My roots and anchors are in the natural universe.  Again, they are not only in it; they are part of it.

(To be clear, because the reading audience is probably diverse, here I am speaking literally, from a secular standpoint, and from what we call a scientific standpoint.  In other words, I am not trying to make or imply—and certainly not relying on—any “spiritual” points here.  Of course, the idea of spiritual means many different things to different people, so I leave it to each reader to choose whether to use that idea to describe a quality or aspect of the natural universe, a quality of life, or a quality of anything else as she or he sees fit.)

As hopefully helpful expressions or illustrations of some of these points, here are several relevant quotes:

The Sphinx must solve her own riddle.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, History

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

–  Albert Einstein

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

– Albert Einstein

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

– John Muir

Nature does not go out of its way to befuddle us.  If some phenomenon seems to make no sense no matter how we look at it, we are probably overlooking some deeper principle about how things work.

– Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought

So then, what about you?  My sensual organ, integrating point (roughly speaking), center of experience and learning, and headquarters is me, but there are also about seven billion other humans on the planet at this point, are there not?  I recognize that you exist, and you recognize that I exist.  I also recognize that you are not me, and that I am not you; but I also recognize that you are most likely like me with respect to everything I’ve just mentioned.  We are not each other, but we are both humans.  You recognize this fact too, I assume and expect.  So, I am not alone, nor are you, nor are Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice alone, in this big natural universe of which we are all a part, and in which we all live together.

Loosely and poetically speaking, realizing that not all points in the following lyrics are to be taken literally in a materialistic sense:

I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together

– Lennon/McCartney, I Am the Walrus

And because, as we have seen, our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.

– The Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium

And of course, it is not just you and I, Bob and Carol and a few others who live within and as parts of the natural universe.  As noted, there are about seven billion of us humans at this point (an issue for another discussion) along with many trillions of other living beings, don’t ask me the number.  A living, breathing biosphere.  And, as our present understanding strongly suggests, we’re all related.  Hello, relative!

So you and I, all other humans, and all life live in and as part of the natural universe.  And our origins and roots are in her.  She exists, and we exist within her and as part of her.   This much we all understand, or most of us do.

Being humans, we are drawn to try to apprehend and comprehend all this—and we can, within limits, at least to a degree.

And as we attempt competent thinking we immediately begin to reemploy our innate drive for comprehensive understanding.

– R. Buckminster Fuller

Ultimately, then, our “solid ground” comes down to this: life.  More completely, it can be described this way: life, rooted and contextualized in the existence of the natural universe.

The reason that this ground is not egoistic is that I am part of life, belong to the community of life, owe my life to life, and am an example of life, and I am neither all of life nor the center of all life, nor the beginning of life or end of it.  And I understand this.  (It is egoistic in the sense that I am a single being, and thus the position from which I experience and learn about life, and about the universe, is from my own body, brain, and mind; but it’s not egoistic in the sense that I think I am, or should treat myself as, all of life or the center, beginning, or end of life.  I don’t.)  I can understand this, you can, and we do.

Similarly, this ground is anthropocentric in the sense that we humans experience life and learn about life and the universe from the position of, and within the limits of, our humanness; but it’s not anthropocentric in the sense that we actually think that we (humankind) are all of life, the only life, the center of all life, or the beginning or end of all life.  Many of us understand this, and we’re all capable of understanding it, I hope.  Indeed, several of the great discoveries of science in recent centuries have helped us understand that we humans are neither at the center of all “creation” nor the beginning, middle, or end of it.

And, the reason that this ground isn’t separate from, decontextualized from, or unanchored in Nature herself, the universe itself, is that we and the broader community of life are not separate from Nature and the universe, decontextualized from it, or unanchored in it; and we’ve come to the point in human understanding where we understand that this is the case, and even a very great deal about how it’s the case.

Put another way, the ultimate ground is and can be understood this way, in these terms:  The universe exists.  (See Note 1.)  We are in it and of it and from it.  We humans experience and recognize the fact of the existence of the universe, although we can’t explain that fact.  Nevertheless, we now understand that we are part of and grounded in the universe.  From our toes to our heads, we are of it and in it.  Literally speaking, our feet are of, in, and on that “ground.”  And, although our sensual, experiential, emotional, and cognitive apparatuses are our bodies and brain-minds; and we are each physically located within our own; and we experience and learn about the world and each other “from this perspective;” and our repositories of experience and understanding are our bodies and brain-minds; nevertheless, we have the ability to understand (to a degree)—and we do understand (to a degree), and our understanding is increasing—that we are part of the natural universe, that we originated in it, that we depend upon it, and that we presently share a finite planet, along with many other forms of life, with which we are related.

Or it can be put this way:  Life is our basis, seat, and proximate ground.  We are anchored in the real existence of life.  And life is anchored in the real existence of the universe.  The universe is our ultimate ground.  The universe exists, life within it exists, and we as part of life.  And we now recognize this.

(This sequence can be visualized, loosely and with important differences, as a set of Russian nesting dolls.  The largest and outer doll, within which the others exist, is the universe.  The next largest is the whole community of life.  Within her, along with all the other species, is the human species.  And I am—and you are—within that.  Of course, there are crucial differences between the situation of Russian nesting dolls and our real situation.  One of them is that I am actually part of the universe, not only in her but also from her and of her, and dependent on her.  There are interdependencies and interrelationships among, and constant transformations among, the universe, the community of life within it, the human species within the community of life, and an individual person within the human species, that don’t exist in the situation of a set of four Russian nesting dolls, one simply within the other.)

We are within and of the universe, and this constitutes and secures a deep and contextualized “grounding” in the existence of the natural universe.  Our roots are deep.

Finally, it may also be said—correctly, in crucial senses—that this ground is vital ground.

Sociality, morality and ethics   

Within this context, regarding sociality, morality and ethics, and from a secular standpoint, it is my view that the real things, characteristics and dynamics referred to by (what I call) the seven foundational considerations, when taken together, contextualize, establish, shape and inform a moral-ethical solution space within and by which moral-ethical behaviors and issues exist, can be considered, can be understood, and, importantly, can be addressed.

The seven foundational considerations—or chief considerations—are (see also Notes 2 and 3):

  • The nature of life: what life is, depends on, tends to value and has a natural tendency to do in order to continue from one generation to the next
  • The nature of sociality and its ultimate relationship with life
  • The nature of our brains, cognition and reason and their ultimate relationship with life
  • The existence of human choice (the nature and scope of which we don’t entirely understand)
  • Time and our human awareness of it and of the apparent practical influences of time on human and other life
  • Our human interdependence, relationship with each other, and “equality”—that we humans are members of an interdependent social species, all related to each other, and equally human in fundamental senses
  • Our existence as part of the natural world, our dependence on it, and our interrelationships with other life and all of nature.  (An important aspect of this is that we live on a finite planet, presently at least.)

Taken together, these seven foundational considerations contextualize, establish, shape and inform the solution space within which we can understand and consider morality and ethics in all senses, in other words, including in their normative sense, at least in the secular realm.

In this context and on this basis, I often use the phrase ‘conscious, informed, and responsible human sociality’ in discussions of morality and ethics.  It’s a helpful phrase to consider, and can shed a great deal of light on the matters at hand (although limitations of space don’t allow for that presently, so I’ll ask readers to contemplate the phrase on their own or by way of my other materials for now).

Thus, in sum, our existence (and life’s existence) as part of and within the universe, and the existence of the universe itself provide the grounds upon and within which we, and our understanding, are based.  And, the substance of the matters—or put another way, the real things—that I have attempted to capture in the seven foundational considerations, taken together, provide the grounds for human morality/ethics and our understanding of them.

The resulting view involves a deep, rich, valid, vital, wise and fruitful basis.  Life is its core, a core that’s part of, rooted in, in relationship with, and contextualized by the existence of all else.

Indeed, philosophy without life is much, much less than a day without sunshine.  It’s more like a day without a sun or universe.  Philosophy without life doesn’t exist.  There’s no wisdom without life.  There’s no love without life.  A philosophy that values truth above the community of life, or values knowledge above wisdom, puts the cart before the horse (loosely speaking).

I will offer one more short, concluding post in this series, titled ‘Vital Philosophy revisited’.  As always, thanks very much for your consideration, and have a healthy and happy holiday season!

Be Well!

 

Note 1 — None of this is meant to imply that the universe “merely” exists.  Its existence is remarkable, exhilarating, awesome, beautiful, mysterious, and many other things, and may even have an explanation beyond itself, although it’s highly likely that we humans may never discover or be able to comprehend whatever “ultimate” explanation might exist.  Where do the turtles stop, and how would we ever know?

Note 2 — These are explained further in my existing work and my work-in-process.  See for example the materials at http://www.obligationsofreason.com/Additional_Material.html .

Note 3 — Of course, the number seven is of no importance: the substantive realities to which the seven foundational considerations refer can be grouped together or subdivided more finely into a number of written considerations other than seven.  The substance is what matters, of course.

 

Lynchpin

Bringing wisdom to life requires such a profound transformation it is difficult to know where to begin. Economic concerns are so pervasive, so influential, and our economic systems contain so many faults that perhaps an economic transformation can ignite a broader transformation toward wisdom.

The book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, by Charles Eisenstein, presents a plan for a bold economic transformation. The book is offered as a gift online, a short video introduces several ideas, and my recent review of the book is now available on-line and as a pdf file. I have also created a compact Problem-Solution Matrix of the book’s essential ideas.

Perhaps a transformation toward a more sacred economic system can help us all lead wiser lives. This book provides a starting point and roadmap for such a transformation.

Knock Knock

It’s neither comfortable nor easy to say out loud that the Emperor has no clothes on.  That’s why a young child had to do it.

Nor is it easy or comfortable to point out elephants on tables.  That’s why there are so many smelly rooms and crushed tables around.

As I wrote in my last post, the first steps in any revolution are these:  First, revolutionize—in a positive sense—one’s own thinking.  As Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”  Second, find each other.

Find each other—and then find others too.  This is where the “Knock Knock” comes in.

Many of the first steps in this revolution should involve, will need to involve, and will involve walking down the hall and also to other buildings on campus and talking with fellow philosophers, fellow academics, and fellow concerned citizens.

Alas, this is the sort of thing that’s very, very difficult and uncomfortable for many philosophers to do.  But we should, must, and hopefully will do it.

The greatest allies of the status quo are our conventional comfort zones.  This fact is obvious if you think about it.  So, if we recognize an important need to alter the status quo, to help humankind and the biosphere, the first thing we’ll need to do is rise above our comfort zones.  It’s simple logic.

Yes, but it’s logic that calls for real actions that are often uncomfortable, especially at first.  This is what is meant by ‘an inconvenient truth.’

As we have already seen, Winston Churchill observed, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”  Similarly, Marshall McLuhan is said to have said, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”  (Actually, it was Lewis Lapham who wrote this in his Introduction to McLuhan’s Understanding Media.)  Someone could equally well have said: We shape our conventions, and thereafter our conventions shape us.  They tend to constrain us too.  Yet our present situation is such that some of our most habituated modern conventions are unsustainable, harmful, and could possibly even do us in.  So we’ll have to shake them off and replace them, preferably sooner rather than later.

Within this larger context, we philosophers should also ask this:  Are the conventions that define and constrain modern academic philosophy genuinely wise?  How can they be, if they artificially constrain philosophy from playing an active, substantial, and effective role in bringing about a much wiser world?

The Roman historian Tacitus observed, “A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all.”  How is it possible that so very many people are often passively acquiescent in the obvious presence of shocking crimes and unscrupulous initiatives?  Well, for one thing, people just don’t want to talk about them.  So emperors parade nude and elephants occupy tables.  See no evil, hear no evil.  You know the stories.

Another impediment to positive action in philosophy is our tendency to often over-think things—basically, nearly anything that can help us avoid action.

In Hamlet, William Shakespeare wrote, and had Hamlet speak,

“And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”

Here, of course, Hamlet was pondering a very difficult choice involving what would have been a very final action.  The choice that philosophers face is, while vitally important, much less difficult, or at least should be.  To knock on my fellow philosopher’s door, or not to knock, that is the question.  To appeal to the department head, or not to appeal, that is the question.  To actively engage with the Economics Department, or not to actively engage, that is the question.  To get involved with Occupy or with the climate movement, or not to get involved, that is the question.  To actively cooperate with other philosophers in vital missions to improve the world—even if such cooperation is sometimes based on insufficiently theorized agreements (because all of our beliefs about truth are not perfectly identical yet)—or not to actively cooperate, that is the question.  These are the questions, and others like them.  What will it be?

This is the final post in the main body of this series on Vital Philosophy.  I’ll add two more posts, as an Afterword:  ‘The ground we stand on’, and ‘Vital Philosophy revisited’.

As always, thanks for your consideration.

Be Well, Jeff Huggins

First steps in the revolution

First steps in the revolution 

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

  • Albert Einstein

 

Let me be brief.

The false assumptions, faulty reasoning, and harmful (and ultimately unsustainable) paradigms upon which a very great deal of “modern life” is based—including and perhaps especially in such crucial areas as our “economics” and economies—are in front of our very noses, many of them as plain as day.  The necessity of philosophy—of vital philosophy and vital philosophies—is more than ever, and deeply urgent.  The challenges for philosophy are huge, the opportunities immense.

Some philosophical errors put the sustainability and perhaps even existence of humankind at risk, not to mention the sustainability and health of the broader biosphere.  Others involve nuanced and largely inconsequential (at least in the foreseeable future) disagreements over some aspect of “truth.”  Which errors should receive the most attention and be corrected first?  Which errors of understanding should be corrected in society, in order that society and individual lives might actually realize the fruits of wisdom, as a matter of priority?

The calls for change and invitations to wisdom are multiplying.  When people and organizations as diverse as Nobel laureates, the scholars of the MAHB, the Pope, Occupy Wall Street, Russell Brand, Wendell Berry, the scientific community and IPCC, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, Paul Ehrlich and E.O. Wilson, Peter Singer, increasing numbers of scientifically-aware economists, the Dalai Lama, and many others voice the same or remarkably similar alarms, and point towards the same or remarkably similar types of necessary reforms, what does that suggest?  Will philosophy and philosophers hear, and respond to, the call?

One of the great Bob Dylan songs—I’ve quoted several in this series—is ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’.  Will academic philosophy be like Mister Jones in Dylan’s song?

“Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?”

 

(If you like, you can find the full lyrics here:  http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/ballad-thin-man )

 

The first steps in any “revolution” are, I suppose, these two:  First, alone and with others, reconsider and revolutionize—in a positive sense—your own thinking.  (Refer again to Albert Einstein’s observation, quoted at the start of this post.)  Second, find each other.

Also, I hope it’s reasonably clear what I mean by ‘revolution’.  I’m talking about a revolution in thinking and in corresponding actions.  I’m talking about a revolution that moves us “from knowledge to wisdom”, in Nick’s shorthand, a phrase that must be understood in the context in which it’s intended.  I’m talking about a revolution of the sort that’s spelled out and implied by the earlier posts in this series on Vital Philosophy.  I’m talking about a revolution that can, should, and must improve the world, not degrade it even more than we already have.

 

“A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all.”

  • Tacitus

 

“How do we submit?  By not being radical enough.  Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”

 

  • Wendell Berry

 

“Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it is none.”

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

 

Cheers and Be Well,

Jeff Huggins

Seeing Through Egocentrism

Egocentrism may be the most engaging, pervasive, and disorienting illusion misleading us.

In a recent TEDx talk Erika Casriel suggests that we learn to understand the world from a more accurate and powerful perspective she calls consciocentrism.

Her talk is on-line at http://tedxnavesink.com/project/erika-casriel/

I was fortunate to see the talk in person earlier this year. She is working on a book exploring this concept in more depth. I believe this is an important insight and I look forward to learning more about it.

I will appreciate learning of related materials you might recommend.

Thanks,

Lee Beaumont