So after my last blog post a friend remarked that she’d love to hear my musing on what a philosophy store would look like. We’ll that’s too good of a challenge to pass up – so here it is:
When I first conjure up the idea of a philosophy store my mind immediately thinks of an old bookstore. You know the one’s, full of hard copy books with bindings that speak of another era, that musty scent of paper. Indeed there must be bookshelves to house the classic works that so often rest hidden away in books.
But that’s an anachronistic image. The access to those thoughts and pages can be done with a simple web search now. Wikipedia provides succinct summaries of most philosophers' great works, so perhaps among the bookshelves, you’ll see a cubby stocked with a computer terminal, or perhaps today you just needs a charging station for your phone and a link to the right app.
But both those visions seem a bit passive for what a philosophy store could really be. Philosophy requires dialogue. Flat presentations of unchallenged ideas speak more of dogma than philosophy. For that reason there must be a forum. Perhaps this is a nod to the Socratic method – but there needs to be an open space for people to both present ideas, and have them challenged.
Some might think a church might be a good model for a philosophy store. After all a church is designed to present its philosophy to its followers. But this misses a very important point about what philosophy really is. As counterintuitive as it may seem, Philosophy is not really about providing answers, rather it is about asking the right questions. The one-to-many design of churches stifles the dialogue of questions, doubts, and skepticism (essential parts of any philosophic exploration).
Perhaps a trading floor is a better model? Instead of an exchange of stocks or commodities, it’s the exchange of ideas that serves as commerce in a philosophy store. Then again, perhaps philosophy cannot be monetized in such as fashion – but there’s a whole theory of value to recon with when philosophy is the product.
Another approach might be a bit more personal. Allowing for subjectivity, it may be that philosophy is a distinct matter for each individual. Philosophy might be a form of therapy one undertakes with a licensed professional philosopher. This would require private rooms like a medical suite (perhaps located across the forum and behind the bookcases and charging stations?) An approach akin to the Existential Detectives of I Heart Huckabees.
Here individuals could craft their philosophies, positing their own questions about life, the universe, or right and wrong. They might make statements of belief, while their philosopher therapist probes them with challenging questions, alternate interpretations, or a random non sequitur to shake things up. Therapy would continue until one reached a point where the answers to the questions no longer mattered.
As I jot all this down, I have to confess I think such as place could exist – perhaps even a virtually. Whether one could make a living off of it though is an entirely different question. And that, of course is the challenging question to all my thought experiments these days. But I’m still asking questions – so I’m not done quite yet.