Are You a Philosopher?
If so, what are you thinking about today? How, do you imagine, humans might use their minds to create a more positive life than the one we have been sinking into?
Let's put it this way: If you understand what The Theory of the Information Age means, how do we turn it to the common good? How do we build a positive new life for ourselves in a world where we are being pulled closer and closer through ever-growing interconnections?
Philosophy, as a discipline, has, in our time, been following two very divergent paths.
- In the West, we have virtually abandoned philosophy and have come to the conclusion that it is a field of study only suitable for dilettantes, for frivolous people who have nothing better to do with their time than to contemplate their navel. In other words, it is a common belief that philosophy is a field of study for a very small intellectual elite and that philosophy provides little useful, practical value to a society.
- That is very different from the view of philosophy now current in Asia, where Confucianism is a philosophy very much on the rise again because it is a belief system that helps societies to create an operating framework that has the power to grow and develop and to enable a society to weather difficult storms. In other words, it provides the tools to manage a society in an orderly, reasonable fashion that provides stability. Notably, Confucianism does not consist of a few elite individuals pondering the meaning of life, but is a system of thought that starts with the family as its basis and grows outward from there in it beliefs to encompass an entire society all the way to a society’s leaders. It is, to apply one definition of philosophy, a way of life.
Is it perhaps time for philosophy to take as active a role in the West as it is doing in the East? What can philosophy offer all peoples as a tool to understand the forces of the Information Age, to comprehend where these winds of change are carrying us, and what we must do to shape a belief system that might guide us into an unknown new age?
Let’s think about the very basis of philosophy: Do ideas really matter? There are many of us who believe they do.
Here is just one example regarding the power of ideas that was put forth by the great historian Edith Hamilton. She suggested our modern situation is identical to the one she described in The Roman Way:
“[Rome] had accomplished marvels; she had made the framework for a new world. A mightier task by far remained: to keep pace intellectually and spiritually with the enormous material advance, so as to be able to plan and build the new construction which the new framework demanded. A vision and an understanding not needed before were now imperatively called for…
“If the people had held together, realizing their interdependence and working for a common good, their problems, completely strange and enormously difficult though they were, would not, it may well be believed, have proved too much for them. But they were split into sharpest oppositions, extremes that ever grew more extreme and so more irresponsible. A narrow selfishness kept men blind when their own self-preservation demanded a worldwide outlook.
“Our mechanical and industrial age is the only material achievement that can be compared with Rome's during the two thousand years in between. It is worth our while to perceive that the final reason for Rome's defeat was the failure of mind and spirit to rise to a new and great opportunity, to meet the challenge of new and great events. Material development outstripped human development; the Dark Ages took possession of Europe, and classical antiquity ended.”
Can we not learn from this lesson? Do we not understand that our current material development is outstripping our human development? If the Information Age is to become a success and not a house of cards that may well collapse down upon us bringing a possible Dark Age, we MUST step up to the challenge of shaping these forces to our advantage. We MUST rise to this new and great opportunity, to meet the challenge of these new and great events.
What will it take for us to understand that this is not only the best, but also the only path into a future where we can still control our own destiny? Why does Ms. Hamilton's depiction seem a nearly uncanny description of our own time? Do we not see the framework that has been built by The Theory of the Information Age? Do we need to step up to address what this opportunity – this new age – demands of us, if we are to master it and to turn it to positive account for all Humankind?
Do you not understand that the field of philosophy and today’s philosophers have the greatest opportunity just about ever presented to demonstrate how philosophy, how a conscious way of living, can turn a raw opportunity into a great Renaissance for all humanity?
THAT IS YOUR CHALLENGE.
And to the rising generation, you might consider that the power of ideas – the power of thinking one’s way through great opportunities – is the very basis of all success.
If you fail to understand that philosophy is one of the most powerful tools ever developed for the advancement of humans, then you will find in the end that life will not be what you thought it was because you will merely travel down through time being blown about by the winds of fortune, rather than being able to guide your life through an ethical, moral, and mutually beneficial code of behavior designed with one end in mind: happiness and prosperity.
Take the time to read The Theory of the Information Age over and over until you have memorized it and fully come to understand it. Then look out at the world and extrapolate from that fundamental concept, that technological, economic, social concept that will be the foundation of the world’s future. It you can see outward from there in a clear and insightful manner, you will be able to see opportunity, you will be able to see how things work by looking at all the interconnections and the possibilities they create.
Today, we are at the very beginning of a true new age known as the Information Age. As a younger person, it will be you and your children and grandchildren who will be the greatest beneficiaries of the Information Age – IF you choose to guide your destiny through a belief system that generates wisdom and honor and striving and caring.
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