A review of the Journal of Modern Wisdom, by Barbara Hannan Cooke
Professor, Philosophy, University of New Mexico
Some of us got into philosophy because we were searching for guidance toward a meaningful way to live. We thought of philosophy as ethics in the ancient Greek sense. Of course, metaphysics and epistemology are part of the broader picture. If one wants to live what Socrates called “the examined life,” one must consider carefully what is real, and how we know what is real. What was unexpected, and frankly depressing, was to find that academic philosophy allows little room for literate and readable essays on philosophical problems as they strike and concern the common person. Philosophy articles in the leading academic journals are mostly so technical and scholarly (concerned with minutiae, and larded with references to other professional philosophers’ work on the same minutiae) that no normal human being wants to read them, enjoys reading them, or gets anything out of reading them.
What a delight, then, to discover the Journal of Modern Wisdom, recently brought into being by Ben Irvine, who describes himself as “a recovered philosopher” and seeks “a new kind of philosophizing…one that doesn’t try to carry values into the critical realm of traditional philosophy, where they inevitably get watered down, but does try to carry philosophical acumen into the realm of universal values.” How wonderful to find a philosophy journal actually dedicated to the Enlightenment principle that “…goodness means individual human beings benefiting…from benefiting others in a shared world,” a journal recognizing that “being wise means using reflection to try to recognize and minimize the flaws, foibles, and blindspots in human nature.”
In this first issue we find not only Irvine’s reflections on wisdom and the good life, but (this is just a sampling) papers such as “The Pleasures and Perils of Food” by David E. Cooper; “The Power of the Parent” by Judith Rich Harris; “A Movement for Happiness and Empathy” by Richard Layard; and “Criticisms of the Concept of Depression” by Neel Burton. These articles, and the others that make up the first issue of the Journal of Modern Wisdom, are without exception enlightening and thought-provoking, while being non-technical, and a pleasure to read.
I am certain I cannot be alone in welcoming a venue for the publication of such work, the kind of work I enjoy writing and reading, the kind of work that is so conspicuously missing from most of the current academic philosophical scene. Philosophy should not be just for “professionals.” It should be for all thinking human beings. I plan to submit my next paper to the Journal of Modern Wisdom!