Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Importance of Philosophy For Our Times

Over the next few months, I will be blogging on the topic of the importance of philosophy for our times. We live in uncertain times, when the media has the upper hand, people are struggling financially, and the political and social unrest. Airports are plagued with the threat of terrorist attacks. People are scrambling, trying to believe in something that is beyond the here and now, something that is a bit more permanent than all of the doom and gloom that we are constantly exposed to.

But is this too lofty a goal or is it possible for us to 'escape' from the mundane and dangerous? Is there hope for humanity and human kind? Can we be more informed consumers, more educated individuals, more liberated and autonomous in the way we live our lives, more reflective of who were truly meant to be and how we are truly meant to live? I think we can answer all of these questions affirmatively. But we can only do so if we can be more reflective, autonomous, free, and authentic than the ordinary person.

So, how can we bring this about? I think we could each achieve this by inviting philosophical thinking into our lives. This doesn't mean that we each have to receive an undergraduate degree in philosophy in order to live more meaningful lives. However, it does mean that we should become much more reflective and autonomous than the ordinary person who accepts everything that is uttered through the media unreflectively and without question.

We are bombarded by media messages 24/7 about how we are to think and act, what success really means, and why we should buy every brand new technological gadget known to man in order to live happier and more fruitful lives. The media message is that we will be happiest when we have all the lately technologies and the newest computers and iphones.

Sadly, people who buy into this picture of happiness unreflectively usually become very unhappy. They usually have to go into debt in order to afford such luxuries, only to find that our consumer culture comes up with another new gadget a few months from now, promising us even more happiness. Is there a way out of this mire of consumerism? Is there a way that we could achieve meaningfulness without being part of this buying frenzy? Is there a way to think beyond the media culture and consumerism to emancipate ourselves from all of their shackles?

I think the way out of this mire of consumerism is critical thinking and reflective thinking. I'm not saying that ALL the technological gadgets lead to problems for us as individuals. I am just making the point that if we are completely dependent on the consumerism to achieve happiness, not only will we fall short of happiness, we will also become fundamentally unhappy and possibly emotionally and financially broke.

Over the next few months, I will be reflecting on the various ways that individuals can become more reflective and 'philosophical' in their thinking habits. I will be reflecting on how individuals can learn to make autonomous decisions about wh at to purchase and what not to. I will also be reflecting on how individuals can assert themselves in a world where assertions are sometimes countered with hesitation and a lack of authenticity.

Welcome to my philosophical blog. And until I write again, please make sure to not to accept everything that the media tells you without reflection and at least a bit of hesitation.

Irene S. Roth

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