Time, by Reyes Mate

This post is also available in: Spanish

What are the main problems Philosophy should deal with today?

In Spain, Philosophy, with some exceptions, is very academic. In universities they teach History of Philosophy, that which philosophers have said, but they don’t teach how to think. You only need to see the programs for secondary education, where they go through the whole history without ever stopping. Information is predominant over learning how to reason. And that can be seen in publications. The majority of books on Philosophy argue with their own library. They are books which talk to books. I miss an outlook on reality, I want the philosophers to shun the quotes and open their eyes. Spanish books, unlike the German ones, are full of quotes. Everybody needs to prove they have read. And what’s important is not what we’ve read, but how to think. Thinking about our time. And in our time I think time itself is a big problem. Time has conditioned every culture. Rural culture had a certain pace, industrial culture had a different one. In rural culture one had night and day, public holidays and working days, and four seasons. In the industrial world all that is reduced. There is a certain distinction between holidays and working days, but inside a single day we can distinguish between working time and free time. Today we live in the telematic era, in a new time, at the speed of light. What sets the pace today are computers, which work at the speed of light. We write an e-mail and it is instantaneously in every part of the globe. And we want all of our life to adapt to that pace. And we end up thinking time and space are unnecessary. That’s new. For the classics, time and space were conditions of possibility of experience. Today, the time we use is wasted time. When we go to a place, what we want to do is get there. We live in the time of instantaneity. We must do things faster and faster. If someone writes to you and you don’t instantly reply, it feels like you’re in debt. That’s terrible. It’s suicidal. It means a lot is dying. Benjamin didn’t know the Internet, but he studied the development of modern technology and he said we were living in a time where experience was impossible. In its place we have happenings. Experience needs for the event to have a time and to be inscribed in a vital net. Happening is instantaneous. It’s impact. It’s journalism: before, some piece of news would happen and people would follow it. It was the following that was important. Not only the verifying. Today what’s important is for the piece of news to have an impact. For it to be true or false is secondary. What matters is impact. This telematic pace is suicidal because it destroys the conditions of possibility and sacrifices achievements earned by humanity during centuries. If we keep this pace, probably a new kind of human, different from the one we know, will have to emerge. Another problem that seems fundamental is the one raised by science. I’m involved in a molecular biology project. According to scientists, genetic engineering, which up until now was fiction, is nowadays possible. It is possible to build a man á la carte. This does not only raise problems in ethics and bioethics: it raises anthropological problems. Until now, the freedom of human beings was linked to natural birth. There has to be something unconditioned in the species for freedom to be possible. But if someone manipulates the whole species, the biological setup of the human being, if there is a human being manipulating that, the resulting freedom will be conditioned by the power of the person who has organized that which was intangible before: birth. This forces us to rethink the concept of freedom itself.

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