The first thing you notice about Michael Eldred's Challenges for Today’s Thinking is its cover by Anna Ninck (Untitled 1993). It’s strikingly beautiful, reminiscent of a rare gem, so exquisite in its simple perfection.
An apt metaphor for a gem of a book that offers the reader something entirely new to contemplate as humanity rushes deeper and deeper into its cyber reality, eager to embrace its celebrated perks (efficiency, productivity, a more convenient way of life) while often dismissing its alarming flaws (privacy, algorithmic control, information overload).
Guided by thoughtful questions from MG Michael and Katina Michael, Michael Eldred offers an antidote of sorts, a way of seeing that asks the discerning thinker to slow down, take a deep breath and think through how we got to where we are today so we can more thoughtfully consider the ‘big’ questions; most importantly, the question of what it means to be human.
A philosopher of more than 40 years' standing, Eldred knows his stuff. I know he knows his stuff because he’s my father and I have witnessed his deep engagement with Western philosophy since I was a child. When my third class teacher asked me what my father did for a job, I replied, ‘He studies what it means to be human’, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, a most important job.
Forty years later, I still think it’s ‘a most important job’ even if at times I’ve been doggedly determined to outthink my father. Every time I’ve inevitably had my mind blown with an entirely different way to view what I thought was an ‘incontrovertible truth’.
Be prepared to have your mind blown too if you consider any of the following as unquestionably true:
— That the only way to know the world is through the senses;
— That human being is synonymous / interchangeable with a machine / computer;
— That consciousness is located in the brain;
— That facts equal truth;
— That only science has the answers to the ‘big’ questions;
— That AI will rule the world one day;
— That ‘cause and effect’ is the only way to view human movement; or
— That knowledge is the accumulation of information.
In Challenges for Today's Thinking, Eldred introduces some of Western philosophy’s most renowned thinkers - Plato, Aristotle, Adorno, Descartes, Marx, Heidegger, Hegel and Kant - to illustrate the underlying philosophical thinking that has led to our digital age. Eldred shows how thoroughly this way of thinking has infiltrated many areas of life, including economics, psychology and, of course, technology, disregarding other possible ways of thinking that stand in its way.
Challenges for Today's Thinking is your opportunity to take a step back and see for yourself how efficiently humanity’s potential can be undermined when human beings refuse to engage with thinking outside the status quo.
Thanks to MG Michael and Katina Michael - fine and discerning thinkers in their own right - Eldred’s philosophy has been distilled into a highly digestible and accessible way to give anyone with a questioning mind the opportunity to truly explore the ‘big’ questions rather than explain them away because they don’t fit today’s established patterns of thinking.
Challenges for Today's Thinking presents the reader with a philosophy that is ready for the 21st century.
Is the 21st century ready for it?