My uncle and I used to meet in Rome for a few days and walk through the streets, enjoying the captivating beauties of the old city. After many years without seeing each other, we found we were studying the same issues: philosophy, history, and the workings of the mind according to Asian thinkers.
Being a neophyte in this area, he suggested I read Sophie’s World by J. Gaarder, a fascinating, delightfully written, entertaining, challenging, and profound book.
The book is about the dialog between an old man and a young girl – Sophie (“wisdom” in Greek). She is brilliant, eager to learn with probing questions, questions that could very well be ours.
This book convinced me that we think the way we do because philosophers tried to understand the times they were living in. They focused their attention on social, religious, and political issues of their times.
Their contribution was to make us think. To challenge us. To give ideas, whether we agreed with them or not, on how to view old and new problems. The new wave of philosophers invariably captured these ideas and created new and more encompassing visions.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are the outcome of the past. What we do. The way we do it. How we live. Some of these aspects have always been the same. For a millennia. The form changes. The substance stays the same. Take for instance the way business is conducted and the incentive to organize “business shows”.
The western world struggled for 1400 years to break the chains of the Church of Rome. The Reformation unleashed a new vision for man. We learned to think by ourselves. It set the stage for geniuses like Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton to challenge the way the world works. It unleashed creativity in all dimensions, ultimately allowing the birth of the Renaissance.
The insatiable sense that we could do anything was followed by discoveries of sea routes to new lands (America and Asia). These events created further discoveries and new challenges for philosophers. Their mental effort has benefited all of us.
(This Observations appeared in the 9-11-2006 issue of The Peter Dag Portfolio ).
George Dagnino, PhD Editor,
The Peter Dag Portfolio.
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