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Abler-Minded: Philosophy

I took one philosophy course in college and didn’t do very well. I did pass, but in the absolute minimal sense of the word passing.

I just couldn’t seem to get my arms wrapped around Spinoza, Descartes and all the other philosophers who were presented in that Introduction to Philosophy class.

On the other hand, one of the people who worked for me many years ago told me I was the most philosophical person he had ever known. I never thought to ask him if that was meant to be a compliment or a criticism. I would imagine it was a little bit of both, with a strong tendency toward the criticism side.

My staff never seemed to be ready for my favorite question, “Why are we doing this and what are our expectations when this is finished?” They never wanted to do the head work to ensure we weren’t pursuing a course of action just because it was new and different.

If we were going to wholeheartedly pursue a system or a change in the way we did business, it had to fit into the overall goals, objectives and strategy.

I believe I could write a whole column just trying to define philosophy and would not be satisfied with the result once I reached the end. But I’ll tell you why it is so critically important to think about the word. If we don’t understand our own and the philosophy of life that others follow, we are doomed to be unable to communicate and cooperate on the same level about much of anything.

Indeed, we will likely be in significant, irresolvable disagreements on nearly everything.

All you have to do to see the proof of this is to examine the stagnation in our national and some of our state governments. Problems are not being addressed in a rational manner; the majority is normally dictating a course of action that usually doesn’t solve anything other than to be responsive to one or more of its constituencies.

The opposition often expresses its position in strident terms guaranteed to bolster its constituencies’ desires. The average citizen who is wondering when a solution will be forthcoming usually can’t understand either what is going on or why.

Guess who spent a lot of time discussing ideals, ethics and morals, as well as the practical side of creating a government? It was our founding fathers who worked through the Declaration of Independence and then went on to the Articles of Confederation, and ultimately wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All of these documents have a deeply philosophical basis that espouses the ideals of our democratic republic and the guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is the legal source document for how our nation should be governed. The current president has done his best to dismantle not only the legal, but also the moral and ethical, bases for actions by the government. The constitutional system of checks and balances that was designed to ensure no one branch of government could assume too much power has been blown to smithereens thanks to the bickering and inaction within the legislative branch, much to the glee of the executive folks who have filled the power vacuum to the point of a tacit monarchy of sorts.

Indeed, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to discussing philosophy is that it involves issues dealing with ideals, ethics and morals. Our national philosophy seems to be that we don’t want to discuss anything that has to do with these three areas because they are “private.” At social gatherings we’re advised not to discuss religion or politics. But both of those subjects involve deeply ethical and moral issues. We conveniently push those considerations aside by discussing only the legality of some of our more controversial social practices.

We collectively laugh at the politician who is under investigation for some ethical or moral breach of conduct and offers the “I did nothing illegal!” defense. But when the subject of abortion on demand is put on the table, it’s off limits because it’s “legal.” I have tried and failed to identify any rational, defensible philosophy that supports the killing of human life in the womb or as a supposedly compassionate act to end suffering. And yet, we think we value “life” while we appear to value death far more as a solution to what we perceive as a difficult problem.

When talking about ethical and moral issues, it is always much more comfortable to talk about those subjects in relation to other people than in ourselves. Have you noticed how the rich are now evil because they are being selfish and not sharing enough of their money for the common good? It is very interesting how the government is so adept at using ethical arguments as a club while failing miserably in examining the ethical bases for its own programs.

Your final exam is one question. When will we know that the government has enough (of our) money?

You have 30 minutes to finish your essay. Good luck.

Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.