May 5, 2012 - Philosophy Day

In honor of the birthdays of two famous philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Marx, today we turn to the study of deep ideas and big questions. 

What is truth? 
What is beauty? 
How should people live their lives?

The study of fundamental ideas is called philosophy, which means “love of wisdom.”

Born in 1813 in Denmark, Soren Kierkegaard is considered the first existentialist philosopher. That is the idea that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the individual and his or her experiences. Kierkegaard thought that it is the individual person who must give meaning to his or her own life, and that we should all live passionately and sincerely—that is, with great spirit, and always being true to oneself.

Born on the same date just five years later, in Prussia (Germany), Karl Marx is linked with ideas of socialism and communism. He was concerned with the relationship between the people who owned resources and factories and land and the people who labored in those factories and on that land—in other words, the relationship between upper and lower classes. He thought that capitalist societies—those that feature private ownership and in which people create products and provide services in order to earn profits—were unstable and would break down. He said that they would be replaced by socialist societies that planned production according to people's real needs and distributed income according to people's contributions. Eventually, Marx believed, socialist societies would be replaced by communism—a human society without national divisions, without central governments, and without upper and lower classes. (By the way, you probably know that many of the people who have tried to create societies along Marxist lines ended up with some very miserable societies—and, viewing history, we might wonder if Marx was just too idealistic to develop good philosophical ideas.)

Think big. Think hard. Think deep.

Also on this date:

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