Philosophy, philosophers, and cooperation
As I mentioned in the previous post, no single person or small number of people acting as individuals can accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Much greater cooperation and much more action are both called for, if philosophy is to demonstrate wisdom and not just publish disagreements about it!
The human species—Homo sapiens—is a social species, and humans are social beings. In my own writings, I often use the phrase ‘conscious, informed, and responsible human sociality’. I discuss, among other things, the helpfulness of this phrase, what we can learn from it, and some of the most basic characteristics and parameters of what we should understand to constitute conscious, informed, and responsible human sociality. I also discuss the moral/ethical “solution space” shaped by seven foundational considerations based on what we understand about ourselves and about the world in which we live. (See some of my materials listed and linked here: http://www.obligationsofreason.com/Additional_Material.html )
In any case, regarding cooperation, many of the more moral manifestations of human sociality involve various types and degrees of cooperation, of course. These range from cooperating to have and raise children; cooperating to gather, grow, or hunt food; cooperating to build shelters; cooperating to accomplish major projects or enable immense institutions; to simply cooperating by refraining from doing a wide range of things in order to allow each other to live without being harmed by each other.
Oddly enough, even freedom involves cooperation. Many folks have made the point, of course; here is one way of putting it, from Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom:
Men’s freedoms can conflict, and when they do, one man’s freedom must be limited to preserve another’s—as a Supreme Court Justice once put it, “My freedom to move my fist must be limited by the proximity of your chin.”
That said, much more active kinds and degrees of cooperation will be needed in philosophy, in academia, and ultimately in society if we are to recognize and remedy the false assumptions, faulty reasoning, and destructive paradigms upon which many of our present ways (especially having to do with economics and our economies) are based. Surely most philosophers recognize this! If academic philosophy is to approach being actual Philosophy—if it is to live up to its claim or anywhere near it—then academic philosophers, as a matter of emphasis and frequency, will need to rise way above the typically competitive quest to find “truth” to embrace a more cooperative mission to actually bring wisdom to life, meant in the way that phrase has been used within the Global Circle. Of course, I am not talking about either/or. Instead, I am talking about emphases, degrees, and what we might call a hierarchy of priorities.
(Readers who have been reading this series from the beginning, or who have read Nick’s work, or who have read related comments here or on the Global Circle e-mail list, will understand what I mean, so I won’t repeat here what has already been written.)
Yet I will say this: The quest for “truth” and knowledge among philosophers tends to be a very competitive and argumentative quest, in which one person tries to convince the other, and in which neither party is satisfied unless someone (typically the other person) is won over. This is, in part anyhow, because most philosophers would agree that there must be one “truth”, at least in the case of things like how the universe came to be, who killed President Kennedy and why, and the whole myriad of other such things. Two people who believe opposing “truths” about such things can’t both be right. So competition ensues.
But of course we also need to live together, as well as with everyone else in the room, and in the world. And, if future human generations are important (in our various philosophies) and other species are important (in our various philosophies), then we’ll also need to find ways to protect the future for them, or at least to not undermine the future for them. So cooperation is called for.
While the eager quest for truth may not seem to require a whole lot of active cooperation, other than the sort involved in building upon the prior work of others, and not throwing things at them at conferences, the task of actually bringing wisdom to life and helping “the world” achieve higher degrees of wisdom, and consequently enjoy the fruits of wisdom, will undoubtedly require much more of it. Much, much more of it!
So, can philosophers cooperate to that degree, with each other and with others? Aren’t the ability and willingness to cooperate, regarding crucial matters, when the stakes are sky high, important components of wisdom? How can philosophers claim to love wisdom if they aren’t interested and willing to cooperate regarding crucial matters when the stakes are high? These are just things to think about.
In the final few posts in this series, I’ll get much more concrete. Then, I’ll wrap up with ‘The ground we stand on’ and a few afterthoughts.
Thanks for your consideration!