Philosophy is a hard sell. Pondering questions about the nature of knowledge, reason, existence, etc. is something that most folks have a hard time connecting to. At the level of ordinary, daily experience, we go to work and feel affection for our loved ones. In our downtime, we may ponder why it is that we gravitate toward certain perspectives or why things are the way they are, but few are able to devote their lives to mulling these things over. I know I have so much on my plate – family, business, farm, church, etc. – that I can only give so much to other things. But anytime I get to learn from those who have done all the mental heavy lifting, I am riveted.
The past few years, I’ve gleaned basic insights from the philosophies of technology, religion, logic, and metaphysics. I’m always in over my head, but I never fail to come out enriched. Before diving into complex books or essays, I’ve found it useful to listen to lectures. There are a bunch of folks on YouTube who do a good job introducing these subjects so that I can begin to wade into the arguments.
One of the primary interests I’ve had in recent years is how we interact with the world through tools and technology. There are many authors who explore these topics, but they all refer back to the insights of 20th-century heavyweight Martin Heidegger. His books Being and Time and The Question Concerning Technology laid a groundwork for a critique of looking at the world as nothing more than resources to be exploited. Heidegger has helped people see the value of engaging with the world for what it is rather than simply consuming commodities. This basic point has been the launching pad for many philosophers of technology including a few of my favorites: Albert Borgmann and Hubert Dreyfus.
If all of this new to you, before diving into complicated arguments about phenomenology or ontology, I recommend watching this 2010 documentary film by Tao Ruspoli called Being in the World. It is a practical look at how this high-level, mind-bending philosophy relates to real life for woodworkers, jazz musicians, cooks, etc. The film is a delight to watch and is quite fascinating. You’ll barely know you’re learning philosophy.
This is the film that inspired my surreptitious presentation of these ideas in “Ready Hands: A Letter to My Sons” in Issue Ten. That article was written to get people thinking about technology and the work of their hands without bludgeoning them over the head with technical jargon.
Set aside some time to watch this film. It’ll send your mind running.