Philosophy doesn’t save the planet – yet One of the oldest surviving stories humans have told each other is the Gilgamesh Epos. A central thread of the epos is how Gilgamesh emancipates himself from nature to promote civilization. This is symbolized by his erection of a wall around the city of Uruk to keep out nature. The gods don’t endorse such unruly behavior and decide to send Enkidu, a hairy child of nature tasked with brining Gilgamesh back in line. But the pleasures of beer and other amenities turn Enkidu around to become Gilgamesh’s best friend. Together they set out to subdue the earth. Since these early days and until today, humans have heeded Gilgamesh’s – as well as the Bible’s – command to the point where we are now probably living in the Anthropocene. And yet, despite this constant, a lot else has changed. The most lasting changes were shaped by fundamental philosophical paradigm shifts. Just think of the onset of explaining natural phenomena through science rather than through divine intervention, as initially observed in the writings of Anaximander, and how subsequent ancient Greek philosophers’ thinking is influencing us until today. Or consider how Christian philosophy lies at the heart of turning business success, to a certain degree defined by greed and usury, from vice to virtue – with Adam Smith marking the end of that trajectory and the beginning of capitalism. Or remember Enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” (Immanuel Kant). Through my simple lens, Enlightenment laid the foundation for changing our collective place of longing from divine transcendence to earthly consumerism. While Martin Luther was still fully occupied by his desire to fulfill God’s will (meanwhile, his wife Katharina earned the household income), we today long for ever fancier conspicuous consumption. I believe that we are currently living through another such philosophical shift of tectonic dimensions. It is just not that easily discernible giving the slow nature of such paradigm shifts. Also, the direction of the journey is unclear. It could lead us towards a philosophy of hyper-individualism as epitomized by increasing investments into longevity and immortality research. But it could also lead us towards an understanding that the individual as a concept ceases to exist, while it is rather an expression of symbiotic relationships with everything and everybody around it. The latter trajectory may be visible in research on swarm intelligence or on our gut bacteria’s influence on our mood and even character. My take is that hyper individualism would accelerate our road to doom, while in adopting the symbiotic worldview we may develop natural and societal wellbeing as our new overarching place of longing – for we are humans and always need to strive for something… Hence, this is my ask of everybody: let’s work on finishing Enkidu’s job, let’s strive for a philosophical shift towards a symbiotic nature-based worldview, let’s counter the trends towards hyper-individualism and ever accelerating consumerism – through the means of philosophy, the arts, science, politics and business (yes, also business), wherever our respective strength may lie. So why also business, you may ask. Well, the title of this post says it all. Such philosophical paradigm shifts need time. And time we don’t have. Therefore, we need to reduce our ecological footprint through the means of the old paradigm, while simultaneously building a new paradigm that fosters a lasting relationship between all natural beings. Let’s together correct the miseducation of Enkidu! Picture: Enkidu by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90610606
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