I took an interesting course on Greek philosophy this week, with a little Buddhism thrown in as a fillip, and what we learned was that there are all sorts of approaches to happiness (the theme of the course), leading one of the students to ask the instructor, “But which approach to happiness do you follow?”
To which the instructor, a young thirty-something type half the age of most of the students, replied, “Aristotle says that’s the sort of thing you shouldn’t ask a young man.”
(Instructors are so much younger nowadays.)
Another student raised the issue of post-modernism. She’s taking a course on that too, and learning of its onslaught on absolutes and its claim that everything is relative. “What can young people believe today if they are bereft of fundamental beliefs?” (I paraphrase.)
To which the instructor replied that his young students do still seek belief, even if there is no longer a unified foundation like medieval Christianity to rely on.
Which I would agree with. We seem to be in the midst of developing a new world view, at least in the West or on university campuses in the West: a world view based on environmentalism, science, identity politics, and political correctness. There are good guys and bad guys, angels and demons, in a way reminiscent of earlier philosophies and religions (more the religions than the philosophies, I’d say).
It’s a development that makes me uneasy, because just as my ancestors didn’t fit with the dominant world view in Christian Europe, so I fear I don’t fit with the believers in climate change and the evils of “white male privilege.” But more than that, more than not fitting in with the contents of the latest beliefs, I fear I don’t fit in with the culture of belief per se – which might make me sound like a post-modernist, only I don’t believe in them either. I’m a skeptic perhaps – or perhaps I’m an eclectic.
The upshot of our final discussion was that people today are more eclectic. Given all the philosophies out there, people pick and choose. I think this is true too, though it is in opposition to the drive I’ve just outlined, the drive for the one Pure Belief, the true cause. Perhaps after this period of eclecticism, we will end (though I shouldn’t say “end”) with One Big Belief again, a new anti-religion Religion.
It’s not where I want to go, but it may be where we’re heading.