Monday, February 14, 2011

We Are Philosophers

I've spent a many hours thinking about the great questions. Why am I here? Am I meant to do great things? How do I obtain happiness? And what about love? Philosophy and science have truly great, great answers to give. But then again, if I learned anything at all, it's that we all know. We are all philosophers. We just don't think enough anymore. Once we reach a certain level of comfort in our lives, we just stop thinking, and get carried into mindless routines and cheap entertainment. Then we wake up one day and the news hits us across the face, and we are absolutely outraged by the things that have been happening around us this whole time.

We have been blessed by nature and evolution (some call it God) with something no other known beings have in this universe: consciousness, mind, soul, intelligence, whichever appellation makes you violin sing. Every single day, we take that for granted.

Homo Sapiens, latin for "wise man", are we so wise, dare I ask? Socrates didn't think so. I don't think so either, for what it's worth. We are lucky animals, at best, maniacal beasts at our worse. I stand somewhere in the middle, but at the risk of sounding radical, let me just say this: as much as we'd like to think we are advanced and that science will eventually make our species invincible, it may well be our downfall as a species, precisely because it made us so cocky.

We are slowly but surely destroying our habitat, consciously as a society, and making excuses for this behavior, in the name of "progress", "economy", "energy demand" and whatnot. We are fighting for the land and its resources, much like wild animals fighting over a carcass. We often forget to think, about ourselves, what we do, who we are, and what we stand for. What do we do of this "intelligence" that was bestowed upon us?

It's easy to get lost on a planet so big, to avoid the 3D repercussions of all our actions. We forgot how to respect not only the ecosystem which allows us to hm.. exist, but we can't even respect each other, or our own bodies. We willfully ignore most things that cause our bodies harm, because we rely on a medicine system which treats already-existing illnesses. In ancient China, you didn't pay the doctor when you were ill, because that meant he didn't do his job at keeping you healthy. As we grew apart from nature, by building our big cities and by developing industries, did we progress as a race, or did we regress?

We live in a free world, but enslaved to the various needs that were imposed to us by our desire to progress. Do you even realize that less than 20 years ago, the internet didn't even exist? We now have the largest source of information and wisdom, widely available for all to consult and even contribute to (Wikipedia anyone?). One doesn't even have to get out of the comfort of their own homes to benefit from thousands of years of history and experience, from some of the greatest minds of all humanity. And yet, we are still mostly blissfully enjoying our ignorance and flaunting our so-called superiority over the world that granted us existence.

You don't need to read all the great philosophers. You don't have to study science, astronomy, physics, history and medicine to think about the world that surrounds you. Are we really that special, that we can mindlessly breed and kill millions of animals every year, when the grain used to feed them could very well feed us to satisfaction? Are we really that smart to think that we know sufficiently about our universe to technologically reverse the damage we've already caused to our environment, or even act in time for it to be reversible? The average salary man doesn't even know what his daily meal contains. Ask the peruvian farmer what's in his plate though... Without knowing precisely how many atoms there are in a grain of quinoa, or how many calories is contained in a potato, he knows EXACTLY what he's eating and that it's good for him. That example should teach us something about wisdom, and how to attain it.

We shouldn't be wondering if we're smarter than a 5th grader, we should be wondering what it is exactly that a 5th grader should know. Socrates famously said "The unexamined life is not worth living", I like to ponder at this quote a lot. How much knowledge is too much knowledge? What do we really do with all this knowledge we accumulate? Through philosophy, can we really establish the good from the bad, the wise from the un-wise, and through science, can we really establish what's true from what's false, or are we just, like Einstein professes, only brushing the surface of what our reality really is?

"Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth." - Albert Einstein

I strongly suggest this documentary, put together by British philosopher Alain de Botton. It's divided in 6 parts, each lasting approximately 20 minutes, and basically, it reminds us that we all have that innate ability to think for ourselves, and that this freedom is the only kind that can't be taken from us.

Now what do YOU think, philosopher? ;)

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