5 unconventional ideas to make you think

The point of philosophy is to make you think. Often, we don’t. Mulling over the meaning of life is not on the top of most people’s to-do-list when they get home from a long day of, well, living. It doesn’t help that the internet is dominated by cats, clothes and memes. But there is nothing quite like mulling over a new idea, turning it over and over, and seeing where it fits. Put the kettle on, your feet up and get your brain out. Here are 5 unconventional ideas to make you think:

  1. Sorry, philosophers: We are creatures of feeling, not reason. Our meaning comes from this.
Image result for feeling vs reason
Hans Thoma’s “Loneliness”. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Philosophy is dominated by recourse to reason. When you think of a philosopher, no doubt a picture comes to mind of a calm, collected, and studious man with a moustache (because patriarchy, but let’s leave that for another day). But Robert Burton argues that philosophy has  gotten it wrong. We are not convinced by logic, but sentiment. This puts philosophy, which is based on changing people through logical argument, in a precarious position. Read more here.

  1. We should do away with talk of ‘sustainability’. Instead, we should talk about adaptability.
Image result for forest
A misty forest. Photo source: Pexels

The environmental movement calls for ‘sustainability’.  But Jeremy Butman thinks there is a problem with this narrative which still sees human culture and nature as being separate and antagonistic.  The divineness of God has supposedly been projected onto nature which is seen as being perfect, and it is this perfection which we hope sustain. We only hope to “sustain nature as we humans prefer it.”

But really, nature has never been perfect. It is chaotic and changing. And we are a part of it. “The changes humans are making to the environment are particular, but not ‘unnatural’.”  We can’t ever just ‘leave nature alone’, nor can we escape its influence over us. If we want to fix our relationship with the environment, we should start talking about “adaptability” and “promotion” instead of “preservation”, which implies there is a perfect, unchanging nature that exists a part from us. Read more here. You can also find a lecture on the same topic here.

  1. We need to use self-knowledge in practical ways, like in the criminal justice system.
Illustration demonstrating knowledge. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.


We have come a long way in understanding how humans develop psychologically. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) lead to a number of negative outcomes in life, such as depression, aggression, and other social ills. There is neurological evidence to suggest that this is how the brain develops, informed by early childhood memories. But it is taking a while for this theory to be translated into practice. For example, the criminal justice systems still focuses on punishment, rather than looking to the root cause of criminal behaviour, which is often ACEs. Read more here.

  1. Consumerism may be replaced by a search for meaning and happiness.
Protests against consumerism, namely against Black Friday. Photo source: Flickr.

Recently, consumer sales have dropped. Economists argue this drop is a result of debt and uncertainty, and a desire to increase savings. But Will Hutton suggests there are greater, more human, reasons at play. It is possible that the search for meaning, happiness, and life satisfaction are no longer being met by short-term purchases.  This could be aided by the consumerism age giving way to the information age, with peoples’ quest for purpose and knowledge being reignited. This has consequences for both people and economics. Read more here.

  1. We should not assist people with dying. We should assist people with living.
An illustration about value. Photo source: Flickr.

Assisted dying is a contentious issue. One of the arguments in support of it is that if your life has no value to society and you cannot find value in it yourself, then you should be able to end it. At least this is what Steven Hawking thinks. But Andrew Brown thinks the question is more nuanced. Value, he says, is subjective. The source of it has changed over time, from God to the self to society. Whether your life is really valueless or not is not an objective matter, therefore neither is the justification for assisted dying. Brown thinks that instead of assisting people with dying, we should help them find value in living. Read more here.


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