As I got older, I actually started reading them. I found myself more attracted to the ones that I knew were considered radical—Marx, Chomsky, Nietzsche. I didn’t find out why they were considered radical until later, that being they pointed out injustice or ignorance in society and proposed a sweeping change in the way society was ordered. But even then, I just naturally liked these the most.
I eventually studied philosophy myself in college. Naturally I started with the Greeks and moved my way through Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, existentialism, and post-modernism—with a bit of Eastern philosophy peppered in for good measure.
Through all of this, I noticed something: philosophy in its entirety seemed to be a game of Ping-Pong. Someone would introduce an idea and the next guy in line built a new idea out of the criticism of his predecessor, and so on. A famous example of this would be the firestorm that followed Hegel’s dialectic, inspiring the likes of Karl Marx and Soren Kierkegaard.
The exception to this is Plato, I think, and I return to him from time to time to immerse myself in something timeless. He was constantly prattling on about ultimate values—and they just don’t change. I might be going off on a tangent here, though.
But this brings up an interesting point—something I didn’t realize until maybe ten minutes ago: the endless call-and-response of western philosophy was a result of the changes occurring in society at the time. Maybe the criticisms of one philosopher from another came only from the benefit of understanding the previous manifestation of society through a historical lens.
Surely, Marx would have never produced his ideas if it hadn’t been for the Industrial Revolution and Kierkegaard would have never waxed on about individuality and freedom had it not been for the reformation and the subsequent religious environment of 19th century Denmark.
If that’s true, then what does it mean for us, now?
Society has certainly changed in the recent past, hasn’t it? I don’t even need to tell you what’s occurred because you know, but I’ll be happy to remind you of the outcomes.
- Most people (elites excluded) are thoroughly disgusted with the political structures of our respective societies. Just look at the approval rating of the U.S. Congress. It has become blatantly obvious that nobody at the top is doing any good for the legions of people below them, but we are still expected to live by their rules.
- While it’s business as usual in the halls of power, the rest of us are grappling with a total reformation of our society. The western economies seem constantly teetering on the brink of collapse and those we have (wrongly) put our faith in to do something about it can’t seem to actually do anything but argue and devise new and creative ways to convince us to keep them in power. We are starting to realize that social improvement is up to us—not them.
- Communication technologies and practices have proliferated to the point that the entire globe is connected, linked, and talking. Cultures previously separated by thousands of miles of ocean or land are now sitting right next to each other. We have access to a wealth of ideas and approaches to life that were previously unavailable to us. A new generation of world-citizens is coming up in the ranks and they are aware of their place in the world and aware of its meaning.
But the next sea change should not come from a rejection of those values that has marked previous philosophical revolutions, but rather an improvement and an addition that accounts for human creativity, ingenuity, responsibility, and integrity. Perhaps what we may want to call the 21st century Enlightenment?
In my view, the frameworks (both literally and figuratively) lie with THEE.
That’s why I’m so excited about this stuff. See, I’m just an Idaho boy who grew up learning philosophy under his father’s wing in a small town almost no one has ever heard of. But now I get to be a part of something that has the real potential to revolutionize how our people operate and view the world and their place in it. The difference being, it won’t be some book with a fancy title that does it. It will be the participation and engagement of people like me and, more importantly, you.