Does Philosophy have a PR problem?
In today’s society, civilizations have become distracted/consumed with their own beliefs and opinions. This ultimately discourages civilians from asking questions or even from learning new/differing viewpoints. “Real philosophers must be willing to give up disproven beliefs and embrace the truth” (“Introduction” 4). As the introduction points out, holding on to your individual truth because of, “a right to my opinion” (“Introduction” 4) has caused people to become disconnected with being enlightened/gaining knowledge and consumed with their own “truthiness” (Colbert 4).
Society today tends to misconstrue the definition of philosophy however with words like “opinion and theory” according to the Introduction (3). “Philosophy means love of wisdom. Philosophers seek truth and wisdom above all else” (“Intro.” 3). Here is where the divide and PR problem begin, with the lack of knowledge regarding philosophy and its’ values.
Why might someone find Philosophy dangerous?
The term danger triggers one’s mind towards terms like pain, hurt, and anguish. According to Johnson, “… nothing hurts more than learning new ideas” (35). This is one reason an individual might misconstrue philosophy as dangerous. “Philosophers appetite for truth is insatiable” (“Intro.” 4). A primary technique used in philosophy to decipher truths is the method of questioning. Today, questioning may not appear to be categorized with the term danger, but think back to the time period of 427-327 B.C.E. when Socrates had to defend his life against two charges. He did so through the Socratic method of questioning and reasoning. This ultimately caused powerful Athenians to view him as “dangerous because his questioning and debate would undermine their basis of power” (Young 7). Thus, philosophy today is often misconstrued, it is viewed as dangerous because it challenges one’s perception and essentially pushes one to examine his/her life, not individually, but wholly.
According to Young, “… friendships help us to critically examine the lives we lead” (11). In order to break free from this “danger”, one must be willing to accept differing viewpoints as well as the fact of not-knowing. “Socrates is famous for saying “I know that I do not know” … philosophy was the love and pursuit of wisdom, and this required questioning others to find out what they do or do not know” (Young 7). In my opinion, the real danger in our society is ignorance. If people continue to not accept “not-knowing” society will continue living individualized without expression of differing/opposing viewpoints, or if these points are spoken, they would quickly be shut down defensively.
People view philosophy as dangerous because to most, it is unknown and misunderstood. It is our duty as philosophers to awaken/challenge those who think they know the “truth” through reasoning and questioning in hopes of inspiring those unfortunate souls to awaken to the power one can obtain only through philosophy.
Should unusual ideas, or ideas that disagree with conventional wisdom be censored?
Unusual ideas/ideas that disagree with conventional wisdom should not be censored if the societal aim is to progress with each new era of time. By progress I mean achieving finite knowledge, obtaining total equality, and the sense of internal/external examination. Censoring these ideas would ultimately lead to complacency in society, or even worse, a digression in our civilization.
According to Colbert, “Nothing endangers cherished beliefs like education and philosophy, and nothing hurts more than learning new ideas” (35). As a human, we are not seeking being hurt (i.e. new ideas) because the society we live in revolves around “truthiness and wikiality” (to use Colbert’s language). Think about your history classes throughout your middle and high school years, how brief was each lesson, how generalized were your assignments? Most students obsess about seeing an “A” on their papers, rather than wondering or asking WHY. Many a times, when a student does ask “why” or for more information on a topic, the teacher may reply with a “We don’t have time to cover that”. It is not fair to assume that the teacher’s goal is to give students a basic education, rather realize that they are imposed (by the state) to a set time frame and TEKS they must cover in order to stay on track with the calendar year. This, in my opinion, is not learning and is a leading causation of “truthiness”.
Censorship is packaged to the public as a form of protection and breeds individuals to remain mentally enclosed (i.e. truthiness). If no conversations are happening where people have varying opinions, or simply opt out of these conversations as Colbert provides an example, “I have a right to my opinion” (33), society will never discover universal truths as a whole. It will remain fragmented and individualized, it becomes, “your truth” (Johnson 28).
Photo credit provided to: oddstuffmagazine.com
Colbert and Young. Technology and Values, Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA, 2010.