Erich Fromm on Having Versus Being — Pointless Overthinking

You can check out my latest article on Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be? on the Pointless Overthinking blog by clicking on the link below.

In To Have or to Be? the sociologist Erich Fromm argues that there are two distinct modes of existence. These are unique ways in which we relate to others and the world around us. Having The first is the ‘having mode.’ This is characterized by an attitude of acquiring or possessing things. It is when…

Erich Fromm on Having Versus Being — Pointless Overthinking

Education for the Soul: An Exploration of the Concept of Bildung

I received a lot of great and constructive criticism on my article about the value of a liberal arts education. Upon further reflection, I wanted to write a follow up piece to clarify my argument.

My position is not that one should pursue a formal postsecondary degree in the humanities or liberal arts to gain the wisdom and self-cultivation that I believe that these subjects inspire. Rather this type of knowledge can be diffused through a myriad of different ways. For instance, it can be disseminated through social norms or through dialoging and learning from different cultures or from different periods in history.

On a broader level, learning about the subjects of the arts and humanities, gives us a deeper understanding of our place in the world. It provides insights and opportunities for personal development by offering new ways of living – new ways of being. Perhaps this can enable us to break free from the chains of our cultural conditioning and become authentic individuals. Individuals who have a degree of internal freedom, who are independent thinkers and are not merely persuaded by the trends of the time or opinions of the masses.

One of my readers introduced me to the German concept of Bildung. The notion of Bildung can be broadly defined by the type of education offered to an individual which focuses on holistic growth, self-realization and a social responsibility. Its aim is to cultivate and educate the person as a whole. The concept of Bildung seeks to promote freedom and autonomy whilst encouraging our sense of responsibility towards others as citizens existing in interdependant communities.

Of course, I am not diminishing the significance of acquiring technical skills. These are needed in the modern economy. However, I believe that they must be supplemented with a degree of emotional intelligence and maturity.

My concern with equating education to merely skills training is that it is reductionist. That is, it reduces the creativity and freedom of individuals to mere cogs in economic systems.

We are not machines, nor are we commodities. Moreover, contrary to the beliefs of many economists, we are not mere ‘utility maximizers.’

 As I’ve argued elsewhere, there are negative consequences that stem from defining success exclusively in terms of our jobs or ranking on the economic ladder.  

This idea of Bildung allows us to expand our ideas about what education is and should be about. It is not confined to school but is a lifelong process of learning. It is about nurturing one’s character, capacities and living lives of meaning and purpose.  

To quote the German philosopher and inspiration behind the educational ideal of Bildung, William Von Humbolt,

There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without

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Beneath the Iceberg: A Look at Mental Models

As the latest IPCC report on climate change was released yesterday, I wanted to re-share this article I wrote about the underlying causes which I believe link the multiple crises we now face as a global civilization.

The common thread, in my view, is one that relates to our collective values, and how we relate others as well as the broader environment. Some food for thought as I continue to think about these issues:

Can we shed this naïve ‘winner take all mentality’ , and work together towards more beautiful futures?

Can we define our limited notions of ‘success’ beyond a merely reductionist model (i.e. economics\GDP growth) and create societies which focus on cultivating wellbeing and human flourishing?

What do you think, let me know in the comments.

A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life

Each of us views the world through our own unique pair of glasses. Our experience is shaped by what we pay attention to during our moment-to-moment existence. It is informed by our social conditioning, beliefs, values and the type of information that we actively seek out.

We don’t have access to the world ‘in and of itself.’ Rather, we view reality from our own subjective filters or mental models which help us interpret the vast amount of data available to us.

As Robert M. Pirsig explains in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,

From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.

Language, psychology, statistics and economics are…

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