Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Philosopher

I was catching up on some podcasts this weekend.  Some on psychology.  Some on history.  A few others.  But for some reason (perhaps a little Baader Meinhof going on), many of them were really about philosophy.  And mostly different ones.  So I thought I would share two thoughts with you.  First, I would describe (briefly) four different ways of looking at the world that were covered in the podcasts (and that I actually remembered from college).  And second,  because most of them misused or overgeneralized what they were talking about, I would leave out the official names as see if anyone can guess.

One old school philosophy:  There is a real and objective world out there where real things exist and real events occur.  But how these all affect our lives depends on how we approach them. Every person, event, or whatever has good points and bad points.  It is up to you how to feel and how to respond. Advocates of this school recommend focusing on the good parts and reacting in positive ways. Acknowledging the bad parts, but not focusing on them.  Even if they are the majority of a given event.  So the death of a loved one, while a terrible tragedy, can also be an opportunity to show compassion for other people who are also suffering the loss. 

Another old school philosophy: There is no real or objective world out there.  Descartes had it right (“I think, therefore I am”), although this is not Descartes school.  Your perceptions and responses create the world itself.  This gives you more power but also more responsibility in creating the world, and thereby the life, that you want. Advocates recommend taking a moderate path, never getting too up or too down. You are neither a success nor a failure.  Just your thoughts are. So choose them wisely.

A newer school (100 years –ish):  We need to take a big picture view to appreciate the world around us.  To see the true glory of G-d, or of humankind, or of society, or of nature, or of . . .   If you look too much at the details, you miss the important message.  Ironically (or perhaps obviously), many advocates of this school go to war with other over their big pictures.  The religionists v the naturalists v the societalists. Anyone who takes their version of the big picture as the only legitimate one.

Another newer school.  We can’t take a big picture view because humans aren’t capable of it.  Or because when we try, the higher power we seek knocks us down a peg.  The Titanic sank because we overstepped our bounds on dominating nature.  WWI happened because we overstepped our bounds on creating larger and larger societies.  Anarchists were a reaction to governments that grew too large.  Communists were a reaction to corporations that grew too large.   Even artists got into this one, with cubists painting objects as a function of their individual parts.  As with the previous example, depending on how you broke down the larger view, you might violently disagree with someone else doing the same thing.  The KKK wanted to divide humanity into individual races.  The Civil Rights movement wanted to go all the way down to the individual.  Odd parallel there.

Thoughts?  Guesses about what the schools are officially called?