Philosophy as Personal Liberation and Social Transformation

Authentic philosophy has wisdom as its goal, and an essential component of wisdom is liberation. At some point in the life of a genuine philosopher, the dominant beliefs and values underlying their society are no longer accepted instinctively and uncritically. The social framework announces itself as a contingent, arbitrary, and often unjust arrangement of power and control. The contingency and injustice are initially concealed, of course, and the system is presented through various means (e.g. the educational system, religious institutions, etc.) as the exact opposite of what it actually is: a manifestation of eternal Truth and Justice. Seen in this light, genuine philosophers do in fact represent a legitimate threat to the established order. By questioning the underlying, taken-for-granted assumptions holding sway within a specific historical community, the entire socio-political edifice is called into question. These guiding assumptions were precisely what Socrates challenged in ancient Athens, and also why the[…]

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Anthropocentrism, Ecocentrism, Environmentalism

As anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the European intellectual tradition knows, the philosophy of Rene Descartes launched Western humanity on a path towards dualism and anthropocentrism. Through his work the locus of meaning, truth, and value shifted away from a transcendent source – previously Nature or God – and towards self-conscious subjects. This trend towards subjectivity reaches its apotheosis in Nietzsche, who famously declared the death of God and waxed enthusiastic about future human beings who would project value upon an otherwise harsh and meaningless universe. This form of anthropocentrism, also known as “subjectivist metaphysics,” is largely taken for granted these days, and this is especially true among educated people who associate religion and transcendence with the dangerous superstitions of benighted masses. It is somewhat curious to note, however, that this ascendancy in the estimation of humans as heroic value creators has coincided with a radically diminished conception of our position[…]

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Freedom Understood Differently

At times, dominant forces in our world can seem so powerful, so oppressive, and so far beyond our control that we lose faith in our ability to act freely and affect significant change. We feel overwhelmed and impotent, and this being the case we may resign ourselves to lesser but more realistic goals like the satisfying our desires for food, sex, travel, and the like. Seeking out ever new and heightened stimuli at least temporarily can fend off the meaninglessness of living within a disenchanted, commercialized world. And yet we need not, and should not, allow ourselves to be overcome by external factors to such a degree that we slip into hedonism and escapism. There are plenty of things that we can do, even in this world, that will allow us to align our contrarian values with a way of living and being we find most congenial. This practical application[…]

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