Rider University: Philosophy Matters

This Wednesday I am honored to be speaking at my alma mater, Rider University, to give a talk at the Phi Sigma Tau International Honor Society in Philosophy.  The talk will focus on how philosophy has influenced my life and also on how it has inspired me to start this digital magazine.  UPDATE! I just finished giving the talk and below is the transcript.  I hope you enjoy!

Phi Sigma Tau – Philosophical Honor Society Induction Ceremony: Rider University, March 9, 2011

I want to start off by saying it’s a sincere pleasure and honor to be here and I offer my congratulations to all of this year’s inductees.  I would also like to offer a special thank you to Dr. Feldman and the philosophy department for having me tonight.  You should take great pride in this legacy of philosophical excellence.  Tonight we honor the philosopher’s pursuit of truth as an unbounded process of discovery which guides us for the rest of our lives.  For truth is relative and expanding; it always lives in the present, achieving new expression in each generation and even in each human life.

The Phi Sigma Tau honor society and the Rider philosophy department instill in its members and students a sense of purpose and desire to achieve greatness.  It is this emphasis on higher learning and thoughtful inquiry that shapes who we become beyond our years here.  The great relationships developed with faculty at Rider have enabled me to be here now with the opportunity to talk about how philosophy has shaped my life and continues to influence me on a daily basis.

Back in 2003, at the recommendation of the freshman dean, I signed up for my first philosophy class, for the upcoming spring semester.  I enjoyed the class so much that I enrolled in a second one the following fall.  For some reason I couldn’t figure out statistics or accounting for the life of me, but philosophy seemed to come quite naturally. 

I did so well in my first two classes that I approached Dr. Burgh about potentially adding a Philosophy minor.  I told him I wasn’t sure if this made sense, given that I was a Marketing and Business major, so I asked him if this was a good combination.  He said: “Are you kidding?  Of course it is!  Marketing and Philosophy go hand in hand!”  At the time this didn’t make much sense to me – how marketing and philosophy were related – but Dr. Burgh seemed confident enough, so I was willing to give it a try.

I went on to take many a great philosophy classes and to this day, I still long to be back in the classroom engaging in all types of sophisticated philosophical discussions on whether or not the chair and desk I’d be sitting at actually exists.

We all know that philosophy is the love of wisdom.  It is our shared passion and desire for wisdom that motivates us philosophers to pursue answers to the big questions: such as the nature of God, the existence of freewill, and the problems of evil and identity.

While these subjects have boggled philosophers for millennia, it seems that the philosophy of language may provide some insight into these age old questions.  Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his followers at Oxford University, claimed that these classic philosophical questions – free will, the existence of God and so forth – were only puzzling because they were posed in confusing language. 

They claimed that using language which is appropriate in one linguistic framework in a totally different linguistic framework is what causes philosophical confusions and pseudo puzzles, also known by some as the history of philosophy.

But seriously, we are very fortunate to live in a time where we have literally thousands of years of philosophical giants whose shoulders we can stand on and learn from.  The entire history of philosophy started with one man, Socrates, who once said: “By all means, marry.  If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”

Studying these philosophers in our pursuit of enlightenment or the bridge to the over man as Nietzsche and Dr. Good would call it, leads us down a path few dare to pursue.  But in my experience, nothing worthwhile comes easy.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.”

 If we can accept the premise that all change starts from within, then there exists no more powerful way to transform our world than through the cultivation and application of an enlightened mind.  However, bringing the enlightened mind and its’ superior ways of living into the midst of daily life remains the unique challenge and calling for people in the western world today.

While it may have been fine for Buddha to sit under a tree and contemplate existence, today we simply do not have that luxury.  We live in a world of technological convergence, text messaging, cultural evolution and increasing globalization.  Traditional enlightenment (of retreat and separation from the world) becomes counter intuitive to addressing the real problems facing our civilization.  It suddenly becomes our duty to cultivate a philosophy that expands our love for each other beyond a state of ethnocentrism to embrace a broader, world-centric perspective.

It is in the spirit of spreading this global centric compassion for humanity, that I have founded the first digital magazine focused on catalyzing an evolution in consciousness and culture.  I’ve combined my marketing expertise with my passion for philosophy and the result is the first 100% free digital magazine designed for cultural evolutionaries.

My new magazine, The Conscious Connection, incorporates cultural and philosophical commentary coupled with a targeted marketing component all aimed at satisfying a cultural need for higher forms of media.  I designed this magazine for the cultural creative’s who’s purchasing decisions were initially based on how socially responsible a company was.  My blog fulfills their newly emerging need for socially responsible media. 

Through our editorials we aim to engage readers with philosophically minded content that motivates them to succeed in their own lives while encouraging a shift to a global centric worldview that sees unity within infinite diversity.

Those who have said philosophy is impractical have never worked in sales.  Through my work in publishing and marketing sales, I’ve found philosophy to be an invaluable tool for my success.  Sales is ultimately about formulating arguments and convincing other people to see your side; and philosophy has primed me to do this quite effectively.

Today we see that our world is in crisis. Just turn on the news any given night and you will see escalating political unrest, unprecedented natural disasters and an energy, security and economic crisis the likes of which we may never recover.  Revolution is in the air and these global events seem isolated, chaotic and unconnected.  But if you look closely you will notice something else.  Despite the chaos of these global events, there is in fact a pattern of interconnectedness.

What we are now witnessing is quite literally the collapse of our civilization – but as crisis after crisis transpires something else is also happening.  Opportunity is being created at an unprecedented rate and the stage is set for entrepreneurs, visionaries and philosophers alike to take the lead, rewrite our cultural story, and drive innovation across every field imaginable.

In the same way that the mythological phoenix rises from the ashes of its own demise, we are now witnessing the birth of a brand new type of civilization just in time as the old one crumbles beneath our feet.  Globalization represents a significant step forward in our evolution as a species.  This evolution is not without difficulty, and the one true problem our world ultimately faces is a spiritual crisis.

Philosophy will continue to play an instrumental role in addressing this crisis and fostering the growth of our culture as we continue to seek answers to bigger questions.  Breakthroughs in science, cosmology and quantum physics are paving the way to a globally integrated spirituality and philosophy based on a reverence for the Universe we inhabit.

Cosmologically speaking, we are beginning to wake up to the fact that we are the Universe itself looking back on all that we have created.  We are each but a drop of water in a vast ocean, awakening to the truth that we are the ocean itself.

Philosophy will always represent humanities highest intellectual potential, and will be needed more than ever as our world heads into the uncharted territory of the future.  I encourage each of you to set your goals high and move forward with vision for your life.  Only 3% of adults have actually written their goals out – and everybody else works for them.  Take risks and make mistakes often; for this is how we learn, grow and evolve.  The philosopher’s pursuit of truth is an ongoing process of discovery and is meant to be applied practically in one’s life.  

I would like to end with a quote from Tom Brokaw:  “You are educated.  Your certification will be in your degree.  You may think of it as a ticket to the good life.  Let me ask you to think of an alternative.  Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” 

Thank you very much.

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