Philosophy underpins our world view and seeks to explain who we are, our relationship with each other and the world. It examines why humans are the way we are and searches for meaning; why we ought to act in certain ways and what is intrinsically valuable in life.
We live in a time of postmodernism. Through no fault of our own, we find ourselves, philosophically speaking, in a fragmented, frightened and fractured world. There seems to be little coherence or harmony between diverse cultures and ontologies. On the other hand, deep divisions – within ourselves, each other and the natural world we depend upon to survive – are apparent across the entire globe. The work of Francois Lyotard and Jean-Michael Baudrillard exemplify this somewhat depressing state of affairs.
The Death of God?
It seems as though ever since ‘The Death of God’ was proclaimed by Nietzsche in his famous philosophical treatise of 1882, humanity has become increasingly disconnected from the perennial philosophy of the ancients. Philosophies that recognised the essential connection between all living beings, from plants to animals, humans, the planet and the entire cosmos.
When Descartes announced ‘I think, therefore I am,’ the previous holistic oneness of perceived human experience – with mind, body and spirit intact – saw the inner and outer worlds wrested apart. The mind was split in a hierarchical relationship from what was perceived as the relatively lowly, animalistic body, which could not be trusted. The mind was privileged as the only reliable source of knowledge of one’s own existence. One could certainly observe that the human body and the egoic mind have been at battle with one another ever since this monumental existential divorce!
Accidental Lump of Flesh?
Darwin‘s Origin of the Species severed the connection between humanity and any sense of the sacred. Notions of humanity possessing any spiritual or divine source were henceforth rejected and ridiculed by any self-respecting materialist scientist. Ever since then, the human being has been relegated from divine child of God to accidental lump of flesh. His theory of natural selection underlies much of the political philosophy behind today’s unbridled capitalism, where only the strong survive and the weak perish.
We at Manchester modern-day Monastery believe that the time has come to remember the wisdom of the ancients. To re-explore notions of who we are, what we’re doing here and why it matters.
We aim to begin a conversation that re-imagines human beings as more than accidental lumps of flesh. That can see the fruits of our incredible human minds as more than Roland Barthes’ simple ‘tissue of quotations,’ unable to produce even the merest shred of pure creativity or originality. That we, as a species, have infinitely more in common than we have been led to believe, not only with one another but with all other forms of life. That we are a species with amnesia, that we’ve hidden our collective light under a bushel for far too long, and that it’s high time for a reassessment.
If this sounds like your kind of philosophy, read on.