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.”
“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,