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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Where have all the philosophers gone? | Johnston Sun Rise

"Where have all the philosophers gone?" continues Johnston Sun Rise.

Once upon a time those who practiced “the love of wisdom” were considered wise for their willingness to ask life’s big questions. Today, philosophy is often considered quaint, B.S., irrelevant or so esoteric that only brainy weirdoes study it. The demise of a discipline that encouraged us to search for meaning has now, seemingly, been relegated to the basement of history.

During a session of the East Greenwich High School Philosophy Club one Thursday afternoon I asked a group of intrepid young seekers how their parents would feel if they decided to attend college and become a philosophy major. In nearly every case students felt it would not be received well. The kids asserted that their parents would consider studying philosophy a waste of money and time. Who would have thought that Socrates, Aristotle, Voltaire and Kierkegaard would have been considered not worthy of scrutiny?

It seems as though emphasis on those courses that are tested for are foremost in parent’s minds when they dole out money for college. In today’s economic climate there is a great deal of sense to this argument. But, should there be additional considerations? While jobs and money certainly are important, I am wondering why purpose, along with meaning, aren’t factored in. 

Not only has philosophy been devalued, so has History and Civics. I am wondering if there is any correlation between the anger driven vitriol permeating America these days and the demise of civics, critical thinking and believing in a purpose that exceeds the perfunctory? Didn’t Nietzsche once tell us, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how?” Asking a few more whys might be helpful for young people as they go through the education process. 

The contributions made by philosophers to political science, religion, mathematics, science, literature, psychology and history are well documented. In some ways, philosophy has been a precursor of Political Science (Plato’s Republic comes to mind). In addition, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche strongly impacted Sartre’s Existentialism. Eventually, leading folks like Rollo May and Viktor Frankl to include such concepts into their work as therapists. Has it reached the point that we have forgotten such things? Even worse, do we even care to ask the questions that Philosophy pose? 

The need for philosophical discourse is as apparent as ever. While much of mankind might think that soft disciplines are not necessary, it seems as though we still struggle over religion, relationships, purpose, the best form of government, etc. In truth, philosophy is still practiced. Comedians, some writers, and musical artists take us there from time to time.

In many ways we have forgotten the process that goes along with discovery and learning. Even our schools have fallen prey to this by placing so much emphasis on testing and school rankings. While Machiavellianism appears to be the philosophy of the day, having it taught within subject matter and scrutinized, must be considered as well.

Source: Johnston Sun Rise