How should we live, how should we treat others, and how should we govern our society. Normative questions like those keep philosophers busy. To that extent we are all philosophers. Our society is a reflection of our collective philosophizing on those concerns. So therefore for society to change, our answer to the question — “What’s the right thing to do?” — has to change.
Depending on which society you find yourself born in, the answers differ radically. A jihadist’s answer will be to kill the infidels, a libertarian’s answer would be to promote personal and economic freedom, a Buddhist’s would be to seek liberation from the endless cycle of birth and death. Economists — a.k.a. worldly philosophers — spend their time essentially answering those question. Development is a philosophical pursuit.
Which reminds me. Have you ever wondered why people always have an opinion on what needs to be done to fix this or that economic problem? Other problems — such as what to do about national defense, or treat cancer, or environmental pollution — they will happily leave alone. But when it comes to economic development, we all have something to add to the matter. That is so because we are all natural born philosophers and as argued before philosophy informs economic development. Though we all are not very good at it, we are all worldly philosophers.
The good thing is that we can learn to do philosophy better. People have spent figuring out answers and we can learn from them. Unfortunately, as a student in the Indian education system, I was not exposed to it. Only after leaving engineering school — I studied mechanical engineering and followed it up with computer science at the post graduate level — did I study philosophy informally.
I think even young children should be introduced to philosophy. After all, they are born curious and if they are shown the joys of asking and answering questions, they would achieve their potential as philosophers. This is important because our collective wisdom determines whether we live in the good society. The good society is an emergent phenomenon which arises out of how we think.
What brought all this to mind was the reaction of the people to what Anna Hazare & Co were up to. I could not avoid the conclusion that if more people had thought through the matter, the circus would not have come to town. It is not that these people are stupid. They are merely untutored. (That makes me an elitist. I am. So there.)
It is never too late to learn how to think. Fortunately for us, we live in the age of virtually unlimited information. You can finds whatevers you wishes on them interwebs. I recommend this course from Harvard by Michael Sandel. Go watch, listen, ponder and learn.
Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?
Episode 01 “THE MORAL SIDE OF MURDER”
Episode 02: “PUTTING A PRICE TAG ON LIFE”
Episode 03: “FREE TO CHOOSE”
Episode 04: “THIS LAND IS MY LAND”
There are 13 episodes in all. Thank you.