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Where Are All The Philosophers?

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Regular readers are familiar with my own passion for famous cliches, generally the older the better – as standing “the test of time” is the ultimate litmus-test for these aspects of human wisdom. Regarding most of the older quotes, the sources are usually attributed to “philosophers”.

For American readers, their “Founding Fathers” were essentially a collection of contemporary philosophers. Their combined efforts produced one of the largest and most impressive bodies of philosophical literature our species has seen since ancient times – making it all the more lamentable that today’s Americans have forgotten every word of it.

The manner in which Americans have forgotten their “roots” and become lost as a people (and society) is certainly not unique to the United States. Across the Western world, a similar malaise has infected all of our societies. For over 2,000 years, philosophers have provided both a moral and intellectual “compass” for our species, which begs the question: where have all the “philosophers” gone?

The answer to that question can be succinctly summed-up with three words: ignorance, arrogance, and apathy. In many respects, these are all chronic “conditions” of our species. Irrespective of the point in history, our species has always (vainly) believed that the current generation of humanity represents a level of “enlightenment” unequaled at any other point in history.

Such massive, collective arrogance has generally been unjustified. While the social and technological progress of our species is undeniable over time, such progress has been uneven, at best. To begin with, any advance made by our species at a particular point of time was typically only embraced by a small percentage of our tribes, and even within any particular tribe, areas of progress were relatively small in scope – in comparison to many other aspects of our society which were either stagnant or regressing at any specific point.

Thus, as a species we have never been “thoroughly modern”. Rather, our tendency is to obsessively cling to archaic concepts, superstitions, and our endless biases. It has been only through the eloquence and insight of philosophers that our veils of ignorance have been ripped from us – one by one, in a painfully slow process.

Today, with technological miracles all around us, our arrogance is almost limitless. “Philosophy” has been reduced to an obscure and minor field of study. While new gimmicks abound to (supposedly) “strengthen” our brains, the concept of teaching people how to think has been completely abandoned by our educational systems, and our societies as a whole.

Consider this, by the time we start school, we are already able to fluently speak English (with the exception of new migrants to our societies). By the time we are nine years old, we have (supposedly) learned all of the basic principles of reading and writing – and we will use our language skills to one degree or another every day in every class we take throughout this 12-year process.

Despite that fact, our educational systems make it mandatory to continue teaching English right until we graduate. The reason? Despite using English all day long, every day of our lives, our educators figured out a long time ago that the only way we could acquire genuine competence in the many rules/techniques of grammar and composition was to receive continuous, explicit instruction on the rules of language, and how to use those rules.  Out of all the fields of study in our public education systems, this is the only area where such rigorous training standards are set.

What conclusion are we to draw from this? Are we (as a species) a bunch of incompetents regarding the use of language? Hardly. Employing our language skills is one of the most difficult intellectual processes in which we engage – and so despite the fact that we use language all of the time, we need this extensive, supplemental training.

Every one of these arguments applies to another equally important field of study: teaching us to think. Just as with language, there is a very large and complex body of rules on how to think correctly. Please don’t confuse this concept with the form of intellectual tyranny known as “political correctness”. There is an enormous difference between teaching people how to think and telling them what to think.

In previous eras, lacking public education systems, as a species we were totally dependent upon our philosophers to teach us how to think. Now, today, not only are there no “philosophers” in our societies, but teaching us how to think isn’t even a field of study.

The explicit refusal (and failure) of our educators to teach us the rules of effective thinking, and then to have us practice those rules until we require proficiency (as we do with English) has produced an inevitable result: we are steadily devolving intellectually as a species (at least in the West), with the current generation of mental couch-potatoes unequivocally representing the stupidest batch of human beings in centuries.

Empirical evidence is all around us. We just experienced a gut-wrenching economic crisis, which was precipitated when all of the world’s “leaders”, all of the world’s “experts”, and all of the world’s “reporters” were “surprised” when the largest asset-bubble in economic history (the U.S. housing bubble) burst. This is intellectually equivalent to awaking in the morning and being “surprised” that the sun has risen.

Proving that this was merely an example of endemic stupidity rather than some rare, anomalous failure, we have Ben Bernanke. After admitting that he was “surprised” by the bursting of the largest asset-bubble in human history, the world’s foremost economic authority predicted a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy.

This is no different than Bernanke first admitting that he was “surprised” when the sun rose in the morning, followed by immediately “predicting” that the sun would never set. In other words, even if it wasn’t already obvious that Bernanke had suffered the largest failure in economic history by failing to “see” the housing bubble, it was literally as obvious as the setting of the sun that a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy was never a possibility.

While one could teach an entire “course” in stupidity simply through observing the words and actions of Ben Bernanke, I will abbreviate that treatise by pointing out that after the two largest failures in economic history, not only do people continue to listen to this clueless charlatan, but the very same “experts” and “reporters” who have continued to mindlessly parrot his disinformation have heaped praise upon him for his “skill in handling the crisis”.

What we have here are not simply lemmings blindly following the lead lemming off of a tall cliff. Instead, we have a giant herd of lemmings following the lead lemming off of the world’s tallest cliff, then following the same lemming over the world’s next tallest cliff – and then praising that lemming for his “leadership”.

Modern” homo sapiens haven’t merely been mimicking the mindless behavior of lemmings. Instead, we have produced an epic display of stupidity which could not possibly be duplicated by a herd of the most severely retarded lemmings ever bred.

It would be very easy to label this glaring intellectual deficiency as nothing more than an “accident” of our high-tech society, if not for my own experiences in our (supposed) “institutions of higher learning”. In general terms, “thinking for one’s self” has become the greatest of academic crimes. “Memorize and regurgitate” is the exclusive model for teaching virtually every subject in a university curriculum.

Worse still, in my four years of economics, we were not only programmed to meekly accept everything we were told without any questions or contemplation, but much of that material I now know to be nothing but Keynesian propaganda. It was disinformation designed to keep the one group of people who should have warned us about the Ben Bernanke’s in the world (at best) totally docile or (at worst) entirely brain-dead.

However much we might have been naturally devolving toward a society of intellectual sheep, there can be no doubt that this process has been intentionally encouraged and accelerated by the same ruling cabal which has been robbing us blind for decades. If you want to fleece sheep, then you certainly want to make sure they are never taught anything about “shears”.

The “last laugh”(?) as our societies and economies plummet toward a collapse unequaled in centuries is that the same ruling “elites” which have sought to keep us ignorant and stupid by cutting us off from the philosophical guidance we have relied upon for 2,000 years have rendered themselves equally impaired in terms of their own intellectual capacities (or lack thereof).

I have spent much of my time in recent months mocking the evil bullion-bankers. It took monumental ineptitude to first squander the largest hoards of bullion ever amassed by our species, and then after that bullion was squandered, to purposefully over-leverage themselves on the short side of this market to the point that their own bankruptcy is the only possible outcome.

In more general terms, the ultra-wealthy are smugly patting themselves on the back for what is literally “The Crime of the Century”. They have squeezed all of the wealth out of our societies in amassing one of the largest concentrations of wealth in history – and still they keep “squeezing”.

History has many examples of similar periods of economic pillaging/hoarding, and they all end the same way: eventually the oppressed masses pull out the guillotines, heads roll, wealth is redistributed – and then the wealthy begin relentlessly stealing from society again, and the cycle repeats.

Even the lowly leech understands that you don’t continue your blood-sucking until the host dies. However, throughout thousands of years of human history, the same “elites” who have always viewed themselves as “much better” than everyone else have never managed to learn the same, simple lesson that a leech knows instinctively.

We have always needed philosophers, and we always will. Without explicit guidance in using the amazing processors we call “brains”, we always have and always will use this tool either ineffectively, or not at all.

Today, stupidity is regularly revered as “wisdom”. Conformity is the highest ideal of our “institutions of higher learning”, and there is not a single “philosopher” in sight. Much, much too late we will learn the lesson that learning to think is our most important survival skill.

 

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mathnerd
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written by mathnerd, January 03, 2011
Ultranerd, I agree that my earlier rant about religion was a bit off-topic - but it was fair game with the way you worded your first post. Whatever - let's move past that and the relative probability of God's existence vs life elsewhere in the universe.

Jeff, I'd suggest that fictional writing has always been the abode of the critical philosopher. Forget the ancient Greeks - they didn't criticize their structure of government, and didn't really upset the apple cart of the day (if I'm wrong, somebody please speak up).

Shakespeare occasionally poked fun at/ criticized the royalty in his plays, but was always careful to ridicule the critics. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949 as a fictional protrayal of the USSR at the time. And we know about Bob Marley.
Earl
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written by Earl, January 01, 2011
Jeff,
Thank you for your response.

FYI…Also on my short list of great philosophers was Ray Bradbury. (Fahrenheit 451)

Remember, Do Not let THEM burn our books.

Happy New Year to ALL the BBC Team & Members.

Earl & Mertis Fubar

Jeff Nielson
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written by Jeff Nielson, January 01, 2011
Earl, I stand corrected.

Yes, there are certainly still some philosophers among our "artists", and I can't begin to list all of the song lyrics which have had a profound impact on how I see the world. Don't know how I missed that (lol)!

Similarly, I've gotten some of my deepest insights into the "real world" in great works of fiction. Essentially, what we have done for those who still want to "teach" or deliver a "message" is to force them into the realms of allegory and entertainment - as being the only niches where there is still a broad appetite for such stimulation.
Earl
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written by Earl, January 01, 2011
Where are all the “great” philosophers?

After days of pondering this question, I have narrowed my list down to one.

I want to let everyone know, before submitting my one philosopher, I broke down and looked up the meaning of the word ‘philosopher’ in the Webster Dictionary. Two things stuck out at me about the definition, that told me my choice had merit.

A ‘philosopher is “one who is calm and rational under any circumstances“, and the Greek (philosophos), meaning “loving wisdom”.

With that I’d say Bob Marley is the greatest philosopher of my generation, as I was born in the 60’s. Music was his way of spreading his message. His album ‘SURVIVAL’ was the most banned album world wide at the time. No it did not have any cursing, only political warning.

If I had to take the context of his entire catalog (message), and put it into one song suggestion, it would be “Redemption Song”.
Like all great philosophers, I’m still learning, seeing and understanding his philosophy, 30 years after hearing his first words.

So to be concise, to answer the question, ‘Where are all the great philosophers’, it is unfortunate how the “great ones” are banned, ridiculed, and labeled. We never see their true genius, sometimes, until it’s too late.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds” --Bob Marley

Earl

P.S.
Brian, your Monty Python reference made me feel better for having Frank Zappa on my short list of great philosophers.
Jeff Nielson
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written by Jeff Nielson, December 31, 2010
Jeff the Other, I'm not a fan of planning "strategic default" on debts. This is purely a desperation strategy, since it is NOT without risk.

Even though we know that fiat currencies are heading to zero over the longer term, there are many possible scenarios we can construct where over the shorter term, carrying heavy debts can outweigh the gains you made from investing that debt.

It's one thing if you're a U.S. homeowner, and your ONLY two options are default or go bankrupt.

However, for those with the financial capacity to RETIRE their debts, that is my own advice. We're facing enough stress ahead of us due to the economic mismanagement of our governments that we don't need to CREATE additional problems for ourselves by needlessly leveraging with debt.

Just imagine the horror scenario of leveraging yourself into debt to buy bullion - and then having whatever government is in charge decide to CONFISCATE that bullion.

They hand you BACK a relatively unimpressive pile of paper, and then you're in the wonderful position of having no bullion BUT also having more debt.
ecliving
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written by Jeff (the other one), December 31, 2010
Hi Jeff.

Your wrote
the concept of teaching people how to think has been completely abandoned by our educational systems, and our societies as a whole


The reason it was abandoned is that they don't want people to think or to be able to think. Otherwise, they'll have a bunch of thinkers to contend with.

That was Rockefeller's entire plan for centralizing and codifying the education system in the US close to 100 years ago.

The trick is, how do we apply our thinking and still manage to live in this world. I've managed somewhat by getting out of Canada (I live in Ecuador), but since we're on the USD here, we still have some of the problems.

And while we've stocked up on silver and gold (not nearly enough), I still have debts to pay every month. My wife and I have several web sites, where we try to earn enough USD that we can pay off some debt and accumulate more silver and gold.

I haven't been hit hard enough by the sense of urgency to ramp up everything (earning and accumulating). Letting my debts fester, until the collapse makes not dealing with them a moot point, becomes more appealing every day. And yet, I haven't done it yet (mostly because I'm considering using some of my credit lines to almost triple our silver holdings).

I let a few people talk me out of doing it back when silver was $26 an ounce, a sad indicator that I'm not thinking for myself, since I know that it has to go higher in the shorter term, and way higher in the long term. So I lost out on a 20%+ gain (less interest costs). That's my cost of not thinking for myself.

Jeff
ultarnerd
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written by ultarnerd, December 31, 2010
Not sure if I posted this joke here but it applies so here goes.
One sheep-le says to the other,the great thing about being a sheep is we get free funerary care.Being sheep they did not really know what that meant but it sounded good and so would vote for that.

Small print here.
You stooped sheep you are voting yourself onto the menu.
ultarnerd
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written by ultarnerd, December 31, 2010
Hi mathnerd
Bit off topic but well worthwhile question.
I do find the whole thing about religion a bit fascinating in fact some of my best artifacts are religious and one of the best is a about 8000 year old jade nuwa ? spelling that has the head of a snake.Whats interesting i it so closely parallels the Adam and eve fable but in their version its the snake that's the good one.
Actually its a fact that atheism is in and of itself, a faith, and might as well be a religion too.
People forget that when asking about if there is life anywhere else is not that different than asking about the probability's of god when in reality just actually about probability's with god as less probable.The universe is apparently not old enough for the chances of any advanced civilization to come into existence to achieve a god like lever of advancement.
Ironically this alternative theory, on my site, has hypothesized that yes there were much older previous universes and as a result has vastly increased the odds of a god like advanced society, that could have migrated to later universes. It then becomes a question of probability's of if any science, could have advanced that far.
But the problems with religions is peoples being so easily led out of all critical though.For example there is nothing more irrational than the argument that thank goodness that god made sure I was born into the only correct religion.
And yes this can all relate to how and why people do not buy gold and why they believe only an un-backed piece of paper can be real money.
For some time the whole of society appears to have been running into treasures like people running into a burning building for safety form the fire.
Just bizarre behavior.
mathnerd
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written by mathnerd, December 31, 2010
Ultranerd, I agree with your core premise. You make a pretty big leap of faith (no pun intended) in portraying religion as the bottom of the barrel regarding social stature though. Maybe some religions are, but the major global ones – in no particular order Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism – have at least some things going for them (Confucionism is not a religion per se to the Chinese readership).

And the Christian-Jewish description of early global history DOES stand up both to scientific scrutiny and orthodox Jewish and Christian teaching. Consult Gerald Schroeder and Alister McGrath if you’re sceptical. Theirs is not a new viewpoint; it’s one that goes back to the 12th century and a couple kaballists whose work was suppressed for the same reason pm’s are being suppressed today.

Show me a religious group that commits acts of great evil and I’ll show you a group that perverts its supposed religion.

I’m not a religious fanatic. I just read up on people who are established experts in their respective fields and use their work to evaluate major religions.

That said, “A society that fails to celebrate the architects of its own future, has less of a future to celebrate” is a great quote.

It is another manifestation of that fundamental truth that either those are correct get rewarded or the group pays the price.
ultarnerd
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written by ultarnerd, December 30, 2010
A society that fails to celebrate the architects of its own future, has less of a future to celebrate.
Great article but a few points,I do not think Bernanke is really so much of a villain as just someone buying us more time before the whole crash occurs, that only would have occurred anywise.
I am glad for it as it gave me time to hoard as much silver gold as possible as I was already so late in becoming aware of the whole thing.I never even had much interest in much of this stuff till a few years ago.
I have not done much thought yet on if this buying of extra time will make things much worse later on or even no difference at all.
But its a shame to print all that extra money only to give bankers bonuses rather than to prepare for the final crash as to encourage industry etc.And with this extra time the US government is not advising people to buy gold and silver, but treasuries etc while the supposedly horrible Chinese government is telling its people to buy gold and silver.So in the end it may not have mattered what Bernanke does, as the whole fiat mess was going to collapse anywise,A broken VCR that a kid try's to fix and manages to get a few more days of use out of is still a few more days of use.

I do agree with you that society is chronically dumb and remember the book called The Manufacture of Consent, some of the stuff in its so very true.My own experiences with this involve a science theory I have on my web site that has actually managed to solve the very mechanism for how time and space and our universe was actually created and this is done in an intuitively understandable way with no paradoxes and is testable.Its subject to experimental testing and therefore subject to falsification as a result actually qualify's as a theory.
Guess what, it gets completely ignored and I mean totally.I did manage to become the most ignored crank on usenet as most could not find anything wrong with the theory so ignored me while others were typically severely flamed.Did get on crank.com once and I never yet decided to laugh or cry.
The whole of theoretical physics is obsessed with a significant percentage of dogma that is to some extent as bad as religion.See my site and click on the link for the theory www.alttheories.com
I used to think that truth would win out on its own merit and I could not be more wrong. That in itself has taught me something interesting, that I never expected, and that's actually a bit fascinating on its own.

A few of my quotes
The value of truth is more determined by the, quality, scale, and duration of its marketing department, than by the actual measure of its truth.Look at churches,politics.
Mountains of putrid maggot infested bull sh!@#, that people want, has more value than the purest pristine truth, that no one wants.So guess which one gets the most manufactured.

What value has truth if no one is payed to teach it.
I can go on endlessly on what a scam most environmentalism is ,so much so I could write a book, for example, on the truth about recycling and logical alternatives.
The sheeple environmentalist can do no math and know no science but can unfortunately, vote.So the politicians will gladly give them what they have been told they want.

Remember schools are the servants of the society and not the students.As a result, the students are trained to serve society itself and not simply to be more capable individuals.Unfortunately despite the fact that you pay hugely sometimes, the university's may also be serving some others interests as I have read economics schools are somewhat influenced by the very banks we all suspect.It has been pointed out on a few websites that economist are not taught a lot of monetary history because too much of that knowledge would threaten a fiat system.Rothschilds etc who own the Fed etc etc are all connected but to much for here.Some seriously interesting stuff here for anyone wanting to dig.
Jeff Nielson
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written by Jeff Nielson, December 30, 2010
Yes, Brian, there are still THINKERS among us. However, unlike in previous times they have no STATUS in our societies.

It's not the thinkers who are given platforms to indoctrinate the masses, it is conformists. Those with different views are mocked just as severely as those making scientific revelations were mocked in the Middle Ages.

If someone can make themselves heard today, they must do it in spite of our system - not because of it. As a society, we now shut ourselves off from new ideas.
Brian Boutilier
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written by Brian Boutilier, December 30, 2010
Where are all the philophers? Have you been to a pub, or a Dunkin Doughtnut lately? They are abound, elbow to elbow ranting about the proglems Dejour. Are they published, lauded? Perhaps not, but blogs are alive and well, and folks are forming thought and trying to see though the mist that the media has conjured. Have we acted with strong enough conviction to separate ourselves from the oligarcs that enslave US? A hell no. Decidedly no. But they are breaking down the illusions one Tweet at a time. Or with the purchase of one Oz of Silver at a time.
Here's my soapbox rant: We need separation of Fed from State! We need clear vision and intent, then need to go one step further and act. Act without earmarks, graft and corruption. Act for the public good, not privatization and profit in the portfolio. See, that wasn't too tough.
Philosophers are a dime a dozen, or if you just pay for their tab, about 8 dollars a dozen, without the coffee.
Brian Boutilier
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written by Brian Boutilier, December 29, 2010
Since I can't think for myself, perhaps then a funny interlude to pacify the nervous sheep...

Brian: I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, fuck off!
[silence]
Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

That was a Monty Python treatise on sheeple, "Life of Brian"
Liked that I did smilies/cheesy.gif

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