Monday, November 23, 2009
note: major parts of this article has been directly taken from Will Durant's book "The story of philosophy".
Philosophy and philosophers have been abused many a times and in many different ways in the past. Some have dubbed philosophy to be as useless as chess, as obscure as ignorance and as stagnant as content. "There is nothing so absurd", says Cierco, "but that it may be found in the books of the philosophers". Doubtless some philosophers have had all sorts of wisdom except common sense, but each philosopher has some lessons for us, if we approach him properly. "Do you know", asks Emerson, "the secret of the true Scholar? In every man there is something wherein i may learn from him and in that I'm his pupil".
Philosophy, like science, is a rational project. A philosopher aspires, and pretends, to reach his conclusion by logical argument commencing from assumption which would be readily accepted by any reasonable person. 'WONDER' is the genesis of both science and philosophy with science taking the more empirical road to understanding and philosophy the more conceptual. But, philosophy accepts the hard and hazardous task of dealing with problems not yet open to the method of science - problems like good and evil, beauty and ugliness, order and freedom, life and death.
Science does not inquire into the values and ideal possibilities of things, nor into their total and final significance; it is content to show their present actuality and operation; it narrows it's gaze resolutely to the narure and process of things as they are. This approach has led to an overflow of materialistic human knowledge which has become unmanageably vast; every science has begotten a dozen more, each subtler than the rest; the telescope revealed stars and systems beyond the mind of man to number and name; geology spoke in terns of millions of years, where man before had thought in terms of thousands; physics found a universe in the atom, and biology found a microcosm in the cell; physiology discovered inexhaustible mystery in every organ, and psychology in every dream; theology crumbled, and political theory cracked; inventions complicated life and war, and economic creeds overturned governments and inflamed the world; philosophy itself, which had once summoned all sciences to it's aid in making a coherent image of the world and an alluring picture of the good, found it's task of coordination too stupendous for it's courage, ran away from all these battlefronts of truths, and hid itself in recondite and narrow lanes, timidly secure from the issues and responsibilities of life. Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind. All that remained was the scientific specialist, who knew "more and more about less and less" and the philosophical speculator, who knew "less and less and more and more". The gap between life and knowledge grew wider and wider; those who governed could not understand those who thought, and those who wanted to know could not understand those know. The common man found himself forced to choose between a scientific priesthood mumbling unintelligible pessimism, and a theological priesthood mumbling incredible hopes.
In this situation the function of philosophical teachings is clear - to mediate between the specialist and the nation, in order to break the barrier between knowledge and need; to find new truths and express it in simpler terms so that all literate people might understand; and to stop the process of moral nihilism where morality is seen as mere human construct and therefore completely arbitrary and mutable.
We face today an unprecedented set of problems relating to environment, the coming One World Order and the ongoing process of spiritual decline.We stand at the Abyss, at the steadily approaching threshold of unimaginable chaos, calamity, death and destruction. But there exists a lasting solution to these issues facing humankind. It derives from the notion of power of ideas and an idea so powerful that it's effect upon the World will be most profound. And that one idea is to be found only in the unexplored world of philosophy. So let's grab a Carribean pirate ship and start our journey into the unknown thereby initiating the Renaissance of the 21st century.
To know more about Will Durant please visit http://www.willdurant.com/home.html