Why modern philosophy fails today

So I was reading a bit of philosophy recently (a bit of Alain Badiou and Sartre). Since I’m not a native English speaker it was hard to read, but I think I pulled through for most of it. Regardless, the “language” and altered definitions these modern philosophers use is unnecessarily complex in my opinion. It’s like linguistic masturbation, showing off to other philosophers who would read their books.

And then it occurred to me.

See, I’m Greek. I’m used to the idea of Socrates walking down to the Athenian Agora and starting talking to strangers. Presenting them with questions, with riddles, with thoughts they never thought possible. Diogenes was always my favorite philosopher because he was a no-shit guy. He had some ideas, and he lived by them, and showed others how to live a good life too.

To me, that’s the real worth of a philosopher. A philosopher for me is not different than what one would consider a “holy man” who talks to, and freely advises strangers in the streets or other settings. But in this case, instead of spreading religion, he spreads knowledge, opens minds, and instigates progress. He’s the Initiator.

Instead, what we have today is these academic types who speak a language that no one understands. The public doesn’t understand them, plain and simple. This is a crime in my opinion. It’s a major disservice to 2700 years of philosophy. So what kind of philosophy is this today? Only for those who pay to learn about it in these private colleges of ours? It’s like their language is so complex on purpose. When was the last time that Badiou hosted a FREE summer camp for example? He’s a communist after all, but I’ve never heard of him do anything for the “community”.

And let me go a step further. When was the last time that a philosopher walked down the mall, sat down with a sign saying that he’s available for any type of conversation, and awaited people to come to him? I’ve never seen any philosopher doing this neither I heard of anyone doing this, and yet this is the DEFAULT behavior I’d expect from a philosopher. A philosopher doesn’t have to become a missionary man or join a humanitarian cause in order to do “good”. Or write books that are more difficult to decipher than Chinese knots. The philosopher can do good by changing his society directly around him by opening their minds. When this happens, the “good” will automatically propagate like wildfire.

I would honestly sit down with such a person to discuss stuff, from ethics to art, to whatever. And in fact, I’ve done something similar once. In 2000, when I was still living in the UK, there was a (Catholic, I believe) monk in the High Street of Guildford (the town I was living at the time). He was sitting in the middle of the closed-down and busy-by-shoppers street, having a second chair next to him, with a sign saying that he’s available to talk. The time was 4 PM, it was almost night (November) and he was ready to pack and leave. I sat down with him and we talked. He did indeed help me (loneliness was my problem at the time), even if I wasn’t particular religious. He was a really smart guy! At the end, I asked him how many others sat with him that day. His reply: “you were the only one”.

Update: Translated to Greek.


Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis wrote on August 26th, 2012 at 9:45 AM PST:

Nice, nicely done. You’ve explained rather succinctly why we need philosophers … and why I can’t look at philosophers today and understand why we need *them*.

Vassilis Perantzakis wrote on August 31st, 2012 at 9:08 AM PST:

Excellent article Eugenia. I will translate it and republish on my blog.

Koutroupis Sotirios wrote on September 3rd, 2012 at 11:03 AM PST:

Διαβασα το προβληματισμο σου σχετικα με τους νεοσοφους που αναφερεις.Και λεω νεοσοφους διοτι η φιλοσοφια ειναι μια πολυ συγκεκριμενη επιστημη και σου παραθετω τα εξης:

Η φιλοσοφια ως επιστημη των αγιων σταθερων αποτελει καλως η κακως ενα κλειστο,πληρες οπως και αιωνιο συστημα καθως βασιζεται σε μια πολυ συγκεκριμενη ηθικη σταση,κοσμοθεαση και δομη του ανθρωπινου φαντασιακου που εκδηλωθηκε και υιοθετήθηκε μεσα απο την Ελληνικη εθνικη παραδοση και την αντιστοιχη τωνΕτρουσκορωμαιων.

Οφειλουμε να τονισουμε συνεπως,οτι εξω απο τις πολυ συγκεκριμενες προδιαγραφες του Ελληνικου και Ελληνορωμαικου ανθρωπινου τυπου και φαντασιακου δε μπορει ποτε να υπαρξει φιλοσοφια.

Σημερα υπαρχει η καταχρηστικη και καταπατητικη χρησιμοποιηση του ορου κατα την οποια ο καθε διανοητης,σχολιαστης ή αναλυτης “βαπτιζεται” αυθαιρετως “φιλοσοφος”.Ο ορος “φιλοσοφος” και “φιλοσοφια” σηματοδοτει την πολυ συγκεκριμενη επιστημη που σου περιεγραψα πιο πανω.

Πρισσοτερα θα βρεις στο βιβλιο του Βλαση Ρασσια “Θεοις Συζην-Εισαγωγη στον Στωικισμο” Εκδοσεις ΑΝΟΙΧΤΗ ΠΟΛΗ

tcab wrote on September 5th, 2012 at 6:23 AM PST:

If you read the preface to “key concepts in philosophy” by McQueen http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=361530 it talks about how obscure and technical philosophy has become and why that is. The book then provides succinct summaries of all the major philosophical concepts and people.
As one who studied philosophy at Uni I wish I had such a book then. I agree that philosophy should be much more plain spoken. I guess that’s one of the reasons I got into new age books after I finished Uni.

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