I feel like there is a misconception amongst people about what philosophy really is. It can be viewed as highly traditional, academic and complex. When you google the definition of philosophy you are met with: “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” Why does philosophy have to be academic? That just makes the whole topic so elitist. Philosophy, to me, is about expression and exploration of thought. It’s thinking about society, values, reasons, knowledge and emotion. Philosophy can easily be enjoyed and engaged in by everyone, especially in today’s society. It is so important to question our thoughts and express ourselves.
When people think ‘philosophy’ they immediately jump to the classic and well-known ancient philosophers. My family love to shout these names at the TV whilst watching University Challenge in an effort to get a philosophy question right (sorry dad). We all know the greats; Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Epicurus, to name a few. However, and not to disrespect the gods and self-starters of philosophy, they are old, and some, sexist and racist. We want to keep learning from these people why? Well, they were great-thinkers, they had great theories and there is a lot we can learn from them. Plato’s Republic being a prominent example, a highly analysed text which has been used to influence modern democracy and civil society. Yet, this text is highly sexist and hierarchical. The message I am trying to push is, there is more to philosophy than the ancient Greek thinkers who existed years upon years ago. There are new and evolved philosophers impacting our generation RIGHT NOW! Philosophy doesn’t have to be old, traditional and stuck in the past, we can update it and evolve the ways we think.
While at university I found myself drawn to taking modules about non-western and current day political philosophy. Hearing from thinkers actively impacting our world today. Philosophy doesn’t have to be old. Philosophy doesn’t even have to be written text, it exists in music, culture and expression. Philosophy is evolving beyond staple and traditional thinkers from years ago, and that’s okay the world isn’t going to end. Whilst they were viewed as abstract and open-minded in their time, we have evolved beyond that. Those society view as breaking and questioning the norm today are the ones we should be looking out for now. They are the great thinkers of this generation and they have a whole lot to offer us.
The reason I suggest that philosophy is more than written text is because to me philosophy is about expression, in whatever way someone deems efficient. It’s spreading a message about society, knowledge and value. Some of my favourite musicians are philosophers, their expression of thought is resembled in their music and lyrics. They’re promoting a journey of thought. Philosophy is a way of life, the way people portray that life shouldn’t be restricted to just writing. Artists such as Tyler the Creator, Juice WRLD, Dave, Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi, touch on important topics and express their thoughts and visions in their own unique way. I recall during my final year of philosophy at university taking a class about the philosophy of music. I highly anticipated this class before realising I was only going to be allowed to discuss classical and traditional music in my final essay. This annoyed me greatly as SO many modern day artists are creating such deep and engaging music for their audiences. Here are a few I would have loved to discuss if I wasn’t so restricted by the criteria of my philosophy of music class!
If we are focusing on written text, philosophy is of course represented in books, but these books don’t have to be traditionally academic, you can buy one in your local book store. There are hundreds of modern day thinkers writing incredible non-fiction books about capitalism, the political environment, mental health, the evolution of technology and societal deprivation through hyper-productivity and perfection. These are the philosophers of today, talking about important topics that influence us and how we live. They question why we have become to think and live the way we do in a rapidly changing world.
Whilst we can learn from the ancient Greek thinkers, we are in no way restricted to them when thinking about philosophy. Philosophy doesn’t need to have such an academic focus. We should direct more focus on the great thinkers of today and listen to their expressions and theories. Whether that be through art, music or books. They have a lot to offer us and we have a lot to learn from them. Our current world is highly saturated by capitalistic mindsets, hyper-productivity, mental health pandemics, viral pandemics, billionaires, perfectionism and technology. Modern day thinkers help to make sense of the world we have built, and how we can live within it. Aristotle or Plato’s ancient texts may not offer a similar solution…sorry about that.