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Why does our society need to have a basic understanding of Philosophy?

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

Just take five minutes to stop and reflect on all the world problems – Covid-19, climate change, destruction of the natural environment, loss of biodiversity, terrorism, immigration, poverty, wars, inequalities, corruption. Just take another five minutes to ponder about the solutions being proposed to combat all these problems.

There seems to be very little hope offered by humanity when our democracies are churning political leaders that are coming up with short-term, narrow-minded populist solutions.

What about the future ? There seems to be no limit to technological progress as key decisions on our lives are slowly being taken over by data analytics, algorithms and artificial intelligence. What is going to remain of humanity? Will any semblance of freewill be retained or shall we end up complete slaves of technological progress as envisioned in Aldous Huxley Brave New World? Or under a state of technological surveillance as depicted by George Orwell’s novel 1984?

The philosopher Plato had terrific insights 2,300 years ago when he asserted that our societies must be ruled by philosopher-kings. But this can be more effective if every citizen of society has a basic grasp of philosophical knowledge. Every citizen needs a philosophical educational background to question basic held assumptions and search for the truth. People who practice philosophy are those who never tire of asking ‘Why?’

The great contribution that philosophy can bestow on humanity is that it makes all of us aware of our own unawareness. We will always know less than we will know tomorrow, even if we know more that we knew yesterday. And we will never know everything. The beneficial role of philosophy is the encouragement it gives to continue striving to live better and to revise our position based on new evidence.

Above all, philosophy will help humanity to think, reason and challenge something that isn’t right. The study of logic highlights what makes a good argument and pinpoints the fallacies inherent in many presented common arguments. Analytical philosophy deals with the logical analysis of language to solve philosophical problems while Continental Philosophy makes us understand better what it means to be human. The study of metaphysics helps us determine the nature of existence while the study of epistemology helps us understand how we acquire knowledge. The philosophy of mind deals with the mind-body problem and the understanding of consciousness.

Ever since the study of philosophy came to light in the Ancient East and in the West, the question of how we ought to live and what is the good life became a primary focus of this subject. This has also been related to the study of ethics and morality and how the state should be organised to exercise political power.

In a nutshell , philosophy teaches us to be creative, flexible and holistic in our vision and thinking, And thus it is more likely that through philosophy, we turn out to be better bosses, politicians, employees, professionals, parents and citizens.

It is a must that our children should learn to appreciate philosophy from an early age if we want to raise them as free-spirited thinking citizens of the future. Philosophy should be included in the school curriculum from the primary level until they conclude their final year in the secondary schools and this subject should be accorded equal importance as the study of mathematics, languages and sciences.

The mission of Philosophy Sharing Foundation is indeed to promote and foster philosophical understanding to the society at large. The Foundation maintains its belief that the rule of philosopher kings in a society that is coversant with philosophy is the key to the survival of humanity in future.

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Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
13 sept. 2020

I read this article while I was reading An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Jonathan Wolff, which also discusses Plato's Philosopher Kings. While Plato's ideas are interesting and well argued, I think that we should not forget that these philosopher kings are basically benevolent dictators. This is fine as long as they stay benevolent. However, because power corrupts, dictators hardly ever stay benevolent and when they don't there is no mechanism to get rid of them. For me, democracy, with all its problems, still wins the day.

Although I agree that our children should be taught philosophy in school, as happens to the best of my knowledge only in France, I think it is unrealistic to introduce it at the…

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