Why philosophy hasn’t changed the world

Why philosophy hasn’t changed the world


If philosophy has confused you, or it seems unimportant, it may be because it does not seem practical or it’s too hard to understand. I implore you to read on.

The problem of philosophy is like the well-dressed man with no shoes

There he is, standing on the street; looking like the most successful, desirable and possibly the smartest person, you’ve ever seen. He looks fit and healthy; he’s standing tall, his eyes focused. You want to be like him. You wish you could portray the strength and poise he radiates. But he’s not complete. You don’t understand something about him. You can’t put your finger on it, until you look down at his feet and see he’s missing his shoes.

He begins to wag his finger at an imaginary person. He starts talking loudly and forcefully to this ghost. He demands they take notice and listen to him. People walking past this man move further out, away from his actions and preaching. Then he starts to talk in such a language that no one can understand what it is he’s trying to say.

Suddenly he goes quiet and returns to his position of silent self-confidence. Passing strangers, again, take little notice of him. They think as most would, he is just another successful person, possibly waiting for a client, or biding his time before a high-powered meeting, until they glance down to where his shoes should be, and then everything they think about him changes.

It's time we started to alter the view of philosophy and philosophers in this world. We can do that by reading about and helping to advance practical philosophy.

Chad Grills, editor of the Mission, says in his article, “Stuck in Plato’s Cave: Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy? written for Student Voices — We have been pursuing philosophy for 3,000 years or so and modern science for about 450. Despite the head start, we feel less certain about life’s meaning than we do about the nature of colliding black holes. We have come so far and still we are less wise than we are clever.

The meaning of life is, of course, an important question, and we might be able to come closer to an answer if we talked about it more. If our leaders were capable of discussing real issues affecting people and not imposing more laws to try to circumvent people interfering with their one-sided political plans, maybe then we might have a better society.

I often wonder if any of the world leaders actually read philosophy. I assume they don’t considering the problems in the world. We have a strong grounding for improving life through the 3000 years of philosophy, but we mostly ignore it.

You might think that most philosophy is hard to understand and that it’s not realistic. But there is a practical philosophy movement. Based in popular philosophy, you can see practical philosophy happening in the opening up of the teaching of ethics and empathy in schools. And in the focus on improving your life, which is happening across the world through the growth of the health and fitness industries. Here is an excellent article by Roman Krznaric on the practical philosophy movement. Can popular philosophy change the world?

If you want to start improving your life, and the world, pick up a book of philosophy and start reading.

Do a course, start thinking about the world and looking for ways to improve the many issues we have. Start with one, a small one you can actually do something about. You might be surprised what you can actually achieve.

Photo credit - Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made by Silanion ca. 370 BC for the Academia in Athens. From the sacred area in Largo Argentina. Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2009.