On the Path of Philosophership -- The Importance of Inclusion
Updated: Nov 28
(This is part of a mini-series on Philosocom on becoming a philosopher. Here are the rest of the material:
I have recently heard the claim that there are fewer geniuses nowadays. This may be true, or it may be that there are fewer known geniuses, whose voices are left unheard because they will only be known after they die, or because they are underestimated in their lifetime.
I find this approach problematic. Why should geniuses be considered something exclusive, when we can all contribute to the world in one way or another? Why should someone's insights be considered more important than someone else's, simply because the former is considered a genius and the latter is not?
A wise person will not be quick to exclude other people, unless they are a serious threat. Doing so would hinder their path to a greater understanding of reality. Remember, other people can be both informative and insightful sources. This is not to say that they are always reliable, but it is preferable to be open to new people so that you can be exposed to new ideas that you might not otherwise have encountered.
It does not matter whether someone is a senior lecturer or a janitor. A philosopher does not talk to people based on their profession. They talk to people as part of their quest for truth. Any additional layer does not necessarily have to matter. It's why I welcome guest posts that are not from philosophers. The title or label does not have to matter much in comparison.
On the path to truth, many people fail to realize that anyone can contribute to the progress of new insights and realizations. The question of whether or not someone is a genius should not matter when measuring their accomplishments, success, and contribution to the world.
People should be valued based on their contribution, rather than their intellectual ability. This is true regardless of how poor, good, or wise they are considered. In other words, no one should have a monopoly on truth, even in philosophy. Anyone has the chance—and the right—to contribute, simply by being a human with insights.
They should all be valued universally as human beings as well, but I digress.
And likewise, anyone has the right to become philosophers themselves, should they practice this craft seriously and not pretentiously. Do so pretentiously and you'll promote negative stereotypes on this job.
To read only a certain group of authors or content creators because they are considered geniuses is to underestimate the value of anyone else who is not considered a genius, regardless of whether or not they actually are one.
You see, mediocrity can also contribute, even if it is considered of a lower standard. By seeking only the best, you are committing the appeal to authority fallacy, which I have written about before. Surely there is a possibility that an "average" human being has something to add to anything that even a known authority figure does not currently have? Surely the attempt to filter the voices of the masses in favor of a select few is to avoid new insights that could be suggested by one social category but not the other?
Because of this realization, I have decided to stop trying to know whether I am a genius or not, because it doesn't really matter, or at least, it shouldn't. It should be relevant to the appeal, to the possible attraction of new readers, but not to the value of the words being written or said. It is the words that matter, not the brains behind them.
It's like wanting to buy a specific brand of clothes. You are only limiting your choices because of loyalty to a specific provider or creator.
The world of insight and truth-seeking should not be a stage for "role models" who flex their brains like muscles. All that matters in the end is the contribution that is made, or the product that is offered. Hence, people's stuff should be read because anything could be of use, not because said people are of higher standing in their fields.
I myself care far more for my work than I care for myself as a person. I have no use for constant praise. I do have use for helping others using my contemplations.
Thus, less-than-known philosophers deserve to be read as well. Because if not, their ideas can be forever left in the dust of history. The "giants of philosophy" are, technically, only those who happened to remain the most well-known all these years. The term "giant" in this case is quite in poor taste, if we measure it by a figure's popularity (which is, then, the fallacy of ad populum).
This is why even doctors, scientists, and other leading authorities can be wrong in their field, and hence why important subjects such as science, medicine, and so on, should not be adored as "religions". Anyone can be wrong, as anyone can be right, regardless of authority or any other personal data.
If an insight is true, its truthfulness is never because it was provided by an intellectual elite. Its truthfulness is determined by reasoning and available evidence. And even then, new evidence might come up that could contradict the very claim for truth.
True authority deserves to come from the work being made, not the other way around.
Because of this, everyone's voice should count, as long as they are not a threat to anyone. After all, that is the very basis of democracy, is it not? That anyone's voice should be relevant, and not those of a select few, as if the world is but an aristocracy of highly regarded authority figures of any kind.
Insights can be found anywhere, even beyond the halls of the academy and school. Even a homeless person with no formal education can have great wisdom given to him by whatever cause — longevity, experience, contemplation, or even life in general.
What matters should not be the method towards knowledge, either. AKA, academic experience, for example. It's fair to rely on senior academics, but never do so completely. Rely on a source blindly and you might deem delusion to be truth.
Question everything and you can include additional philosophers. They can also be questioned, of course, if not deserved.
Because of this, even philosophers should not have exclusive access to the truth. Philosophers are merely those who are more inclined to seek it than others. A philosopher without curiosity or any other kind of motivation to philosophize is a very lazy one who can be suspected of incompetence.
It is my job as a philosopher to remain curious for you, dear readers.
This is why the origin of the field is the "love" of wisdom and not the possession of it. Philosophers are that way because they lack something that the universe has, but the only difference between them and others is that they have a huge lack of satisfaction with this fact.
They might always be, should they remain passionate enough to understand reality, for the rest of their lives.
As the cliché expression says, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!". Or, don't just invest your time on a select few of philosophers, if you can enrich yourself instead.
On the path of philosophy, anyone should be read, anyone's voice should be heard, with no discrimination of any kind. That way, you will reach a state of optimality you wouldn't otherwise have by only subscribing to geniuses, polymaths, and any other kind of intellectual.
Aim for the content that is the most appealing to whatever you may be seeking. That includes not only quality but, of course, the basic criteria of good rationality and evidence (whether sourced or be discovered yourself. Be an "adventurer" in that regard).
Of course, it's also a great way to generate exchanges of ideas between the readers of said thinkers. And these ideas can prosper and perhaps even touch the truth we may so desire.
It shouldn't matter what you think of the person who supplied the words; what should matter is the potential contribution of these words to your development, and, potentially, success in your efforts. Don't limit your knowledge because a certain thinker wasn't a nice person, or had any other trait you don't like.
That can easily exclude them from your reading list. By your own doing. If anything, the philosopher would not avoid reading another philosopher, because of their personal atrocities. They would find worthier reasons to do so, should the study of reality matter to them in all honesty.