The central acknowledgement of this website is this: that ideas rule humanity, that all our decisions and our actions (both for good and for bad) are effects of what we believe and how we view the world. Voltaire once wrote in his Philosophical Dictionary that books rule nations. The nations of the east, for instance, are ruled by the books of Confucius and Lao Tzu; and in India by the Upanishads. The Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, held the dominant sway in the Levant until the Quran, and now both rule the greater percentage of the entire world’s population along with the New Testament. But the power of all books is in the ideas they hold and transmit to those who read them. Books, wonderful and valuable as they are, are relics, monuments of ideas frozen in time, endowed with relevance and importance only by the thinking individuals that believe in them. The purpose of philosophy and all philosophical discourse is to breathe life into ideas by putting them to use—by engaging in conversations with them, by finding applications for them, by testing, criticizing and disputing them. No philosopher regards any idea as untouchable and unassailable by the powers of reason.
Philosophical inquiry (to include science) is perhaps the greatest product of the mind of humanity, alongside the likes of art, music, and literature. The pursuit of wisdom is, like our other creations, an expression of human nature. There is no one in the world that does not “do” philosophy—regardless of whether or not they use the term to describe it. All investigation, all questioning, especially of that which is easily taken for granted, is an act of philosophizing. Philosophy is a living process. Like any of our greatest endeavors, it is a constant and continuous process of growth, expansion, and evolution, ceasing only at the moment of death. The fallibility of humanity’s reasoning requires that we never assume certainty, never presume or pretend to knowledge we don’t have and that we keep the spirit of dispute and conversation alive. Those who claim to possess infallible or unalterable knowledge, the intellectual authoritarians of the world, do not take part in the game of philosophy. To indulge the fantasy of certainty is to resign from the conversation, to surrender all further pursuits of wisdom for the false consolation that one already knows what one needs to know. Pragmatically, this may serve its purpose in the lives of those who do not consider themselves “philosophers”. But it is the duty and the responsibility of those of us who operate in the world of ideas to scrutinize and examine; not to allow ideas to pass under our microscopes uninspected and to eliminate the weaker from the better.
It is this process that keeps the corpus of knowledge, of valuable information, alive. As with the human corpus, a state of complete equilibrium constitutes death. It is oscillation, periodic imbalances, positive and negative feedback which suffuses the corpus and generates the homeostatic environment. “Balance”, if you would even want to call it that, is really imbalance – life is not static or balanced, nor would this even be desirable. It is change; it is triumph and failure, feast and famine, joy and misery. Rather than seek out the proverbial Utopia of most spiritual and religious seekers, the real philosophers seek not perfection but accommodation. Not the ideal of perfect happiness, but the elimination of that which causes unhappiness; not the pursuit of perfect joy, but the minimization of suffering; not the quest for absolute justice, but the methodological removal of injustice. We advance as a species not by looking for perfect wisdom, but by eliminating unwisdom. There is no salvation from error, no avoiding mistakes. The reliability of our knowledge, therefore, must be mediated through the interaction between ideas, through discourse. For often, we are restricted by our own biases from detecting intellectual mistakes in our reasoning. External feedback and criticism from our peers brings to our attention things we may have overlooked. It allows us to view old problems in new ways and to consider alternative solutions.
This website is a home for conversation, for those who believe not only that they have something to say but that they also have something to learn. It is dedicated to those who can’t dispense with their passionate obsession and love of ideas and who spend their time thinking about them. There is no elitism intended in saying that the ideas of the many are determined by the contemplations of the thoughtful few, for better or for worse; from the great scholars of Buddhism to the fathers of monotheism. For those of you who would engage the ideas of others with your own, this website is for you. You have nothing to fear, so long as you have nothing you’re unwilling to dispute openly. I once believed in a holistic view of the universe and our place in it. I now believe that man’s fragmented and myopic vision is no realistically surmountable obstacle; that our hopes rely not in one individual’s or one philosophy’s capacity for holism, but the capacity of thinking individuals to interact and to cooperate with one another, working together to erase error and stupidity from the myriad of humanity’s woes. I believe that, typically, holism is another one of the many Utopian fantasies of perfection latent in the psychology of our species and is in fact detrimental to the growth of knowledge. A “holosophy”, thus, is for me the interaction and intercommunication of the philosophies of the world, for it is through this process that growth is almost guaranteed, and never stultified. It is not a grand unification, a theory of everything, an unalterable philosophical system, an all encompassing worldview or a cure-all solution.
We believe that knowledge does not begin with perception, experiment, observation, or “innate” ideas. Nor does it begin with spiritual revelation or scriptural authority. We believe that knowledge begins with the asking of questions, without fear and without discrimination. The ingenious Schopenhauer, like Lord Bacon before him, taught us that philosophy does not aim at the encyclopedic collection and acquisition of information, but that “it is his way of thinking that makes a man a philosopher.” He spoke in a manner characteristic of his time—but this way of thinking is, obviously, accessible by everyone (and not just men). We believe this way of thinking is one in which the critical attitude is tantamount. The ability to think critically cannot be learned through the endless reading of books or through technical skill. It is not taught in the university. It is fostered only by the philosophical temperament: the willingness to question; to think boldly, creatively, and independently. Socrates taught long ago that philosophy begins with doubt.
In the “Knowledge and Inquiry” section of this website, you will find a collection of interesting and thought-provoking articles by some of the great thinkers of the past. The “Resources” and “Videos” pages currently reflect the interests of this website’s editors, but suggestions for new videos and links are encouraged and can be provided by any member in the Discussion Forum. In the Essays section you will find articles written by me—my personal contribution to the conversation—as well as others. Anybody can submit a contribution to the Essays page, though only after it is reviewed and approved for posting. Objections to a rejection of a personal essay, as well as criticisms of existing essays, can be addressed in the “Featured Writings” section of the Forum and are highly encouraged. If an essay you submit for the website is rejected, you have the right to know why. Differences of opinion are encouraged and tolerated, however, there are certain philosophical principles that the editors of this website wish to uphold. Anything, of course, is up for debate in the Forum. The “News” page features scientific articles, book releases and reviews, debates, commentaries, interviews, and in general any news items related to topics of discussion.Anyone can contribute to the conversation. Those of you who wish to be involved: this website is for you. Have a look around and enjoy.