One of the interesting elements of philosophy is that those thinkers are much better in formulating thought and philosophical expressions than me. In my situation, what perhaps is even more important, is to have teachers that can assist in better understanding these often rather academic thinkers. I can easily tag on to those philosophies with the assistance of good teachers (such as Dr Kerry Sanders).
Philosophy is also a good tool to get a better understanding on how we as people and as a society are moving forwards. L’histoire se répète, so I will look back to some of the most famous philosophers from history as they have great insights and reflect a wisdom that shows us what the most important issues in life are. Why are we here on earth? Who and what are we? What is driving humanity? Is there a purpose in all of this?
It was the philosophers – all the way back to the Greeks in the 6th BCE – who first started to ask these questions. This formed the basis of what became known as empirical science. In the 18th century, this science became a faculty in its own right (as in distinct from religion and metaphysics). Separately from fact-based science, philosophers continued to concentrate on the many unknown elements. Interestingly questions such as the meaning of life and its purpose remain unanswered from a scientific point of view ever since they were first brought up, more than 2500 years ago.
I like the definition of Ludwig Wittgenstein “Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity”. I very much like philosophy as a key activity in my life. I am not necessarily looking for answers but I very much like the process of inquiry and learning. As Socrates supposedly have said – shortly before he was put to death:” The unexamined life is not worth living”. All humans have philosophical beliefs about things in life. Philosophy use reason as key tool in their quests for the truth. Reason is a critical element of today’s society with an overload of fake news, politicians that are plainly lying and all sorts of quacks and schemes being spewed out by social media.
Current populism is the opposite as it is based on emotions rather than reason. It is irrational especially in its disregard for pluralism, the rule of law and minority rights.
People like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Seneca, Spinoza, Kant and Nietzsche and many others have greatly contributed to political, social, and economic philosophy. In my contribution I am concentrating on the nature of human, is place in the cosmos as well as ethical and moral issues.
It is interesting to observe that through the millennia people who had the time and had take the time did sit down to think. They than discussed the big questions in life with others interested in the big questions. Over the ages they have come up with very similar thoughts. Of over the last 2500 years new discoveries have been made. In particular with the arrival of empirical science further progress has been made but ideas about atoms, matter, time, politics, the cosmos, Nature, ethics have a very long history. At a basic level most of the thoughts from the more modern philosophers show great similarities with those from the Ancient Greek. Every age does need philosophers who take the time to think and to keep reminding people about the big issues as we far too often get swamped in the details of the day.
The following chapters that I have written are obviously a work in progress and will be updated and extended following my own journey in this fascinating world. Hopefully, I can show you how relevant philosophy is in our current times.
I also investigate early belief systems and religions as they have also contributed to philosophy.
At the end I look at transhumanism and other possible trends and scenarios of where we as humanity can move towards. But in that process, it is good to look at history and call in the wisdom of some of my favourite philosophers.
Philosophy is perhaps even more relevant now than ever before as we are more and more confronted with increasingly more complex global issues.
I must thank Dr Kerry Sanders for her insights to explain philosophy to me during the many lectures that I followed. Philosophy is sometimes very hard to understand and to read, and you need an expert like Kerry to assist you on that journey. Philosophy is also a discussion and she skilfully organised this during her lectures and during the informal ‘salon’ after the lectures at her house.