It may be news to some, but Northwest Missouri State University is discontinuing the philosophy major option from its catalogue.
This choice, whatever the reason, deeply concerns my conscience. While still keeping the Introduction to Philosophy course as a core education requirement, the sorry loss of an entire program as thought provoking as the study of thought is deeply disheartening.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” wrote Allen Ginsberg in his famous poem “Howl.” I fear we are encountering a repeat of this sentiment in today's perception and intake of information.
I believe philosophy has garnered a bad reputation. Not necessarily for the ideas it considers, but in the ways we might view people who enjoy talking about it. And OK, yes, I have met some especially insufferable philosophy nuts, some of whom may or may not have thought they were abducted by aliens, but this isn’t to say I disliked what they had to say about the world.
It’s difficult separating someone’s ideas from their image, even more so in an age of rampant social media use. We are becoming brands and like the brands we identify with, whether we like it or not. Our interpretation of each other and ourselves may well be bottlenecked by the fast-paced nature of society.
This contemporary model of information sharing doesn’t allow for someone to sit down and think about why they are thinking about the things they are thinking about. In short, we do not have the time to think. Instant gratification is plaguing the very thought we are able to contribute to the world and people around us.
Without a basis in asking ‘why’ or ‘how,’ how can we hope to tackle the more popular and ever-present ‘what.’ For example, we can look at the ‘what’ of an issue all day long before asking ‘why’ it came to be, or ‘how’ we are going to fix it. I believe a surge of whatness in our society is becoming a hindrance to our critical thinking. We are too fixed upon the next thing situated in front of us to even have considered the last. Living in the moment has taken upon a newer, more dangerous, definition.
This definition does not include a place for philosophy. Ethics and morality seem to be an easier fit, but even these are are only remembered as they come about in what seem to be continuums of each other, happening over and over again as if no one is paying any attention.
I fear opinions about philosophy will only get worse before they get better. By worse, I mean nonexistent. By nonexistent, I mean our soon to be philosophy department.