The history of philosophy
Anyone else feel like philosophy has some stuffy academic connotations?
Can you jump into the same river twice?
I am not sure, and I don’t know what I gain from figuring it our either. This is exactly the sort of semantic question designed to spark ‘philosophical’ debate. But who cares?
Philosophy feels like it has evolved from a practical discipline to an abstract intellectual exercise. Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with fancy philosophical terms or dense academic jargon like the nonsense above. Instead, I'm going to explain how philosophy used to be, and why it's time to bring it back to its practical roots.
Philosophy has its roots in ancient Greece, where it was considered, a practical discipline aimed at helping people live better lives. The likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were deeply concerned with questions of ethics, morality, and human flourishing. They believed that philosophy had the power to transform individual lives and society as a whole. For them, philosophy was not an abstract intellectual exercise but a guide to daily life.
Fast forward to today, and philosophy has become a specialisation emphasising abstract theories and concepts, divorced from practical application. Philosophy became more about semantics than practical wisdom.
So, what happened? How did philosophy lose its practical roots?
Religion may have a part to play in replacing guides and toolkits with rules and doctrines. Academics got too caught up in their own heads, thinking too much and doing too little. They became more concerned with impressing their peers than helping people live better lives.
Society has become more complex, and we've lost touch with the practical applications of philosophy. We've become too focused on material success and superficial pleasures, and we've lost sight of what really matters - things like compassion, empathy, and morality.
But all is not lost. We can bring philosophy back to its practical roots. We can focus on questions of ethics, morality, and human flourishing, and explore how philosophy can help us live better lives and build a better society.
Here are a few ways we can bring philosophy back to its practical roots:
- We can shift our focus from abstract theories to practical applications. One way to do this is by asking better questions. Namely, how philosophy can help us make better decisions and live better lives?
- Philosophy needs to engage with real-world problems and issues. We need to apply philosophical concepts to issues such as inequality, justice, and the environment.
- We need to recognise that different people and cultures have different perspectives on ethics, morality, and human flourishing. By learning about different schools of thought we can develop our own philosophy, our own process of thinking before doing and therefore acting in congruence with our own philosophy. There is plenty of ancient wisdom to be leveraged.
Philosophy has the power to transform individual lives and society as a whole. But we need to bring it back to its practical roots. We need to focus on questions of ethics, morality, and human flourishing, and explore how philosophy can help us live better lives and build a better world. Don’t be put off by academics trying to tie you up in knots. Instead, we can use ancient wisdom to provide the guide to the good life.