Although I consider what I am doing here is at least in part a statement of personal Philosophy, I recognize it would not be seen as Philosophy as such by Academics in that field. You see even today, Philosophy is very much about the Fruits of Pure reason, and very distrust full of the senses, and the Passions.
To me the Academic vision of Philosophy is very much like the images paraded before our eyes in Overstock.com commercials. A beautiful woman, lounges in a perfectly white world. Her home, her clothes, her furniture are always pure white. Not a hair on her head, nor a magazine on her table is out of place. She lives in what one might think a cinematic vision of a Platonic Form might be like.
Pure Reason is like that:
Its very seductive, it promises us a world that is orderly, where every thing has a purpose, and everything is in its place, where the passions are kept in check, and our highs are not to high and our lows are not too low, and the destructive aspect of the passions has been disarmed. At its most confident, Logic even promises us a peek into the mind of God. God it is deduced must be a Rational being, and there-fore his world must be a rational creation.
The problem is of course, people don't really live here:
Aristotle was simply wrong in his assertion that man is a rational animal, and by and large there seems to be more truth in the notion that man is a Rationalizing Animal. We dont have to strain ourselves to observe the rich who have gathered great wealth unto themselves embracing some variation of "Social Darwinism" as a political Philosophy, to justify their own status, and greed for more wealth and status. All we need do is tune in to the Fox News Channel
On the other-hand, those who purport to represent the poor, will likely defend some variation of a Socialist world vision, and champion the Ideal that those who are more blessed assume with that blessing, more responsibility to their fellow man, not less. (A position I would maintain myself.) My point however is both camps, arrive at there beliefs first, and construct their arguments later. Pure Philosophy seldom convinces anyone of anything of value.
Now thats a sweeping statement, but I think one can back it up with a few simple observations.
Almost everyone with any education in the western world, has encountered Plato's Republic, it has been "Required Reading" by Princes, Popes, and Pols for oh say 400 years after the Midevil Period, and another 700 years before, no. So would you please be so kind as to point out to me the state or kingdom that heeded his advise, and installed a Philosopher King.
I don't think you will find one myself, and I pride myself on a rather above average grasp of history. What you will find instead is the occasional Frederick the Great, a man who having come to power as King, for reasons having nothing to do with Plato, was in fact something of a Philosopher, and did try to rule his people wisely. Frederick however was clearly a King/Philosopher though, not a Philosopher King.
And what of his Mentor Socrates, again we all are aware of Socrates, and most persons of a little education are aware of the fundamental mechanism of his method. In the Dialogues every time someone presents a proposition, Socrates asks us why? By repeatedly challenging his victims assumptions he constantly demonstrates that his fellow Athenians have not thought their positions through, and largely believe what they have been taught to believe without reflection.
Its no less true today, and I think it obvious Socrates would be very disappointed if he where transported into the world of today, only to find it was peopled by people who where by and large both ignorant of the particulars of his argument, and had not applied his method to their own beliefs. Especially here in the US, because Socrates clearly cared passionately about how we conduct our public lives, and the thought that the leader of the most powerful nation on earth where a man, who has neither the inclination, nor capacity to reflect on his world view would have been an anathema to him. (IMHO)
The only true Philosopher Kings I am personally aware of, are the Dali Lama's of Tibet, and again their position has nothing to do with the advise of Plato, and less to do with reason. Instead their position rests on the belief of their people that the Lama's are Bodhisattva's who return to this world to guide their people towards Nirvana and freedom. They enjoy their position because of their perceived insight, which is based on inner knowing and mediation, not Logic. Of course the Current Dali Lama is a very scholarly man, he could surely run rings around me logically, but on this point I doubt he would want to, Like Nagarjuna instead I think he would see logic as a tool, but one to be careful of, lest ones speculations become exercises in hair splitting and dogma.
To me if Philosophy is it be useful outside the Ivory Tower, it must be grounded in actual human experience, not in pure reason alone. This Emphasis on the esoteric element of air, while ignoring the remaining elements of existence has not served Philosophy well, we see this clearly enough in the fact the 2000 years since the tree was planted by Socrates, it has born precious little fruit. The world has not been made significantly better by the exercise, and at times, misunderstandings of thinkers like Nietzsche have contributed to making significantly worse.
Yet I obviously would not throw out the baby witht the bathwater, I am by disposition something of a Monk/Scholar, I do believe that reflection on ones beliefs in necessary to maturity as an individual, and a culture. While if we carry our childhood beliefs with us all our lives, we reach the end of our lives simply large, wrinkled children. Yet as I have put the point else where I also believe, everything we know ultimately comes to us through the report of our senses, and we must continually revisit the world, and verify that the results of our speculations remain true when grounded in the world of our senses.
Ama tu ANKI, BB.