Recently, a new minority has become active; folks who are willing to speak out against extreme philosophical positions and to challenge the demagoging old guard of dogmatized philosophy. They are called “moderates” or “liberals” and many of them think that neither Rationalists nor Empiricists have the corner on Truth.
Moderates believe that many paths may lead to the source of True Knowledge. Some even believe that Empiricists and Rationalists are right at the same time. They point to the fact that The Empiricalon and The Rationalists Creed promote thinking as a guide to living a fruitful and healthy life, and argue that certain philosophical concepts point us in the same direction — the great and inspirational philosophical books, however, make far more exclusive claims.
Some Moderates go so far as to assert that knowledge may come partly from Experience and partly from Mind; oddly, though, they continue to wear the old labels of their philosophy — Rationalist or Empiricist — skewing statistics and creating the guise of philosophic-homogeneity that in reality does not exist.
This skewing confounds not only researchers, but it falsely elevates the leaders of philosophy. Rationalists, for example, claim over a billion adherents worldwide, giving great authority to their supreme philosopher, the Phope, while adherents themselves hold many views anathema to Rationalist doctrine. Moderates nevertheless cling to the labels for various and unclear reasons, even in the face of continuing philosophical intolerance and violence perpetuated by so-called True Philosophers.
A further curiosity, one found in both schools, are large numbers of members who have never read the philosophical texts nor learned the key tenets of their philosophy, yet still emphatically call themselves Empiricist or Rationalist (even taking great offense if their ill-informed philosophical views are not respected). For example, some Empiricists do not know the meaning of a posteriori — thinking it an anatomical term. And some Rationalists do not know why Mind is held in such high regard or the many miracles attributed to it. They know not that one’s Mind may provide answers to life’s deepest and most complex problems — or so Rationalists assert.
To be fair, both philosophies promote thinking, yet some adherents do not know that thinking each day can enrich one’s life — or even that the power of thinking has been shown (anecdotally at least) to be as useful in regular life as it is in deep philosophical trances. It should be mentioned, however, science has never adequately backed-up the miraculous claims of thinking championed by either school of thought.
The final oddity is the known fact that Rationalists come from Rationalist families and Empiricists from Empiricist families. What is strange about this fact is not the close correlation to one’s upbringing, but that followers of each philosophy do not recognize the label they wear is often an accident of birth. Again, we must keep in mind the long and bloody history between these schools and the deep social taboos against marrying outside of one’s philosophy.
In any case, it is remarkable that liberal and moderate followers of each philosophy continue to wear such potentially divisive labels. Even those who are aware of those labels’ arbitrary nature, who stand opposed to the highly-charged environment in which both philosophers and politicians leverage philosophy for personal gain, seem unreasonably attached to these old ways of defining themselves.
This society has seemingly harnessed itself with a great yoke, one which separates and divides individuals, communities, and nations. Many are dedicated to fighting the most egregious violence done in the name of philosophy, both followers and non-followers alike. One wonders, however, what would be the effect if those who were not True Philosophers simply dropped the labels which harnessed them.
Philosophers would lose their undeserved clout and power, millions of young people would have the freedom — instead of inheriting a philosophy — to study philosophical texts and choose to accept or reject them based on merit. For many, the Truth-Books’ utter exclusion of competing philosophies prove the limited scope and dated value of the words. Some suggest, although many consider this heresy, that Truth does not come through revelation, it is not handed down fully-formed by great philosophers — that Truth requires us to be willing to make revisions as new discoveries and new insights occur.
If only the old philosophies of Rationalism and Empiricism were recognized as the archaic and divisive systems that they are, this world could get beyond much of its violent past and resentments. But the pull of philosophy is strong, not only does it provide a foundation to one’s life, but it allows individuals to stop thinking and simply to know the source of True Knowledge — and it seems to show no signs of abating.
Perhaps Philosophy’s grip will one day be loosened — perhaps it will come from the inside, by the Rationalists’ use of thought or by the Empiricists’ technique of opening eyes and looking around, but something surely needs to change in this world. As an outside observer I believe change will come from those who are not already and completely sold, by those liberal and moderate philosophers who are willing to step away and disown philosophy as it has been practiced… and I, for one, hope that the day is soon.