With Age Comes The Best of Philosophical Thinking

by Dr. Sam Heath

It may be that the best of philosophical thinking comes with age. If so, and I believe this to be the case, it isn't any wonder that such thinking depended not only on a developing science, but longevity as well. To be a philosopher, there is the need to experience life and carry out actions requiring much time. The needed study, and reflection on what is studied, by itself requires many years. In such a case, we would not expect to find much in the way of excellent philosophical thought among races, particularly ancient ones like that of the Egyptians, that suffered high infant mortality rates and died in their thirties as adults. Nor would we expect to find developed philosophies among cultures without a pronounced and developed science. These factors alone would account for the very slow development of any truly well reasoned philosophical thought in time past, particularly the flaw of omitting women from philosophy.

It is quite probable and understandable that ancient peoples lacking in science and facing death at an early age would be caught up in mythologies and religions concentrating on life after death' the Egyptians epitomizing this in their religious beliefs and concentration on preparations for the hereafter. It would help explain why even Neandertal buried their dead with ceremony.

It would take a science that could promote longevity and stimulate the resulting intellectual brain activity for brain function to increase at the rate it did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most especially the latter.

An enigma presents itself in regard to Cro Magnon that developed a mastery of art (cave paintings in France) that did not appear again until the fifteenth century A.D. Now why was this not developed in some of the great civilizations of Egypt and Greece? Renowned for work in stone, these great civilizations lacked the Cro Magnon mastery of painting. Very puzzling.

It would seem Cro Magnon had the brain capacity, measuring larger than modern Homo sapiens, to engage in artistic expression, but lacking the intellectual stimulation of a developed science could not carry this further.

Perhaps the short lifespan of ancient cultures leading to a preoccupation with thoughts of death and hope of something better in an afterlife led to working in stone and the building of monoliths, this material having a sense of permanence, rather than more perishable materials.

It has generally required "patrons" to encourage and subsidize the arts. And many have pointed out the necessity of a leisure class in order for the arts to flourish. But once there were means and incentive separated from religious strictures to encourage scientific discovery and exploration, this aided considerably in stimulating intellectual activity that, in turn, appears to have encouraged a wider exploration and experimentation with various art forms, particularly in literature.

With the modern advent of film, there was a quantum leap of artistic experimentation, the exponential impact of which may have been more profound on intellectual stimulation than is generally recognized.

In its way, film provided a media of monumental importance, much like the invention of movable type together with a suitable written language that made the mass production of books and newspapers possible. It was the increasing availability of books, more than any other factor, which gave the impetus to widespread reading and writing, the dissemination of information, so crucial to the kind of intellectual stimulation that would usher in an age of scientific enlightenment and invention.

The "monuments" of humanity began to be books, rather than stones. The printed word would have an impact of far greater significance and lasting value than any number of pyramids or other stone artifacts. Some may think the pyramids speak of immortality, but nothing speaks more eloquently, nor bears a truer mark of what may be called the immortality of divinity in humankind comparable to the stars better than Shakespeare, and Samuel Clemens who was born and departed with Halley's Comet.

But a difficulty for this monument of the highest achievement of Emerson's "Man Thinking," the written word, has arisen with the advent of television. While films of the past involved going to a theater, TV brought films to the living room, encouraging a sedentary lifestyle. The reading of books was increasingly losing out to a media that did not require the skills and mental activity leading to intellectual stimulation as that of reading.

And books generally, but certainly not always, have some intellectual or artistic merit in order to be successful. It seems TV is not held to this standard. Most importantly, TV as a passive medium does not require the active participation of the mind, of the imagination, that books do' and lacking such, does not provide the kind of stimulation that is so conducive to intellectual brain growth and function.



Samuel D. G. Heath, Ph.D.

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