Monday, July 25, 2011

Philosophy & Freedom

The modern world is characterized by anxiety; we often equate the modern human condition with dread, conflict and lack of meaning. What is it about the modern condition that lends itself to this predicament that we find ourselves in? Much of this condition, I believe, is due to a lack of awareness of ourselves as able to critically evaluate our fundamental world-view. What is a world-view? It is a comprehensive perspective into which we fit all aspects of our experience (whether it be scientific knowledge, common sense judgments, religious beliefs, etc.). However, the problem is that most of us either receive their world-views uncritically from our surrounding culture, or they hold a world-view that lacks comprehensibility and consistency. It is precisely from the source of our world-view that the malaise of modern life besets us. We accept, for example, biological and physical determinism, nihilism, consumerism, hedonism, individualism, etc., uncritically from our culture and it works on our relationships, concept of ourself, and our understanding of the world. The bleakest things about us is our world-view.

However, philosophy--understood in the classical tradition as the search for wisdom--offers some relief from this stress. A world-view ought to be coherent, principled and explanatory to our experience. It also dwells in possibility! A world-view need not be deterministic, or nihilistic. We may explore our options while standing outside of any one of these.

An example of this is metaphysical atomism. This view holds that the fundamental components of the world are indivisible units that all material things can be broken down into. This view is accepted universally from the modern sciences. Democritus, the originator of atomism, holds the metaphysical day. However, one need not be an atomist! One needs to explore the metaphysical options that are coherent alternatives to atomism. This is an example of an opening into possibilities not realized by most of us!