I rapped upon the front door, as if a stranger – its familiar ornate knocker now cold hard liaison into my very own cherished childhood. Entering the house while my Father shut the door behind us, I felt the incumbent rush of joy as he rattled off his favorite Mark Twain quip, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This just could not be you see, as my Father was dead.
My father was a great man. He was a lawyer by education, accountant by training and a philosopher by life experience. He grew up in a small Appalachian town – which his heart really never left. I have only partially grasped the reasons why he wanted to move his family back there. There was the presence of some extended family, and that mattered of course. But it has only dawned on me in these latest years, the full set of rationale as to why he returned to this little town. He worked for and eventually bought, the largest factory in the town – an operation employing close to 1,000 persons. He spent his life guiding both the business and ethical direction of that plant along its mission. Not a mission to make money, and not a mission to protect the environment nor make quality its product – although it succeeded in all this. Rather a mission to serve the citizens of that town. To serve both his love for honor, and his abject love for the small community inside which he had grown up.
My father came to me in three dreams after he died suddenly of a heart attack back in the 1990’s. Evil services the aimless but good man through a slow and torturous death, but an effective good man it must kill with swift errand.
In the first dream he pulled alongside of me in our old yellow Buick Skylark as I walked along a roadside, and bade me to get into the car with him. Once inside he said “I want to thank you for helping your mother since I passed and for all the hard work you did in closing my estate.” I replied “Sure Dad.” We drove along for a few moments and he asked “Is there anything you want to ask me, or are curious about?” I thought for a moment, and replied “No, just listening to you come through here, is enough in itself.” He smiled and acknowledged the incurred wisdom.
Around the time of the second dream, my company faced the burden of the 2004 recession. We held a monthly sales backlog of $80,000 and monthly payroll liability of $380,000, about a month out. My four senior partners, who had gotten rich off decades of more heady days inside the business, decided that rough times were not part of the formula, and therefore it was time for their exit. They handed me an 80% upside-down business, along with all the employees, their families, their healthcare and college education benefits, and then bolted with the cash and past profits. To say I was terrified, both for myself and the wide-eyed employees who feared for their livelihoods, was an understatement. My father came through in a dream that month and said “TES, I know you are scared, but I want you to stick with this company. A large interest is going to come and it will turn things around.” I complied. That next few weeks, the phones started ringing, clients descended upon us in droves – and the large interest turned out to be the People’s Republic of China. We survived, we thrived.
In the third dream, I found myself walking up to our old family home in that small Appalachian town. The centerpiece of my youthful existence. I rapped upon the front door, as if a stranger – its familiar ornate knocker now cold hard liaison into my very own cherished childhood. My Dad answered the door and threw his arms into the air and exclaimed in reference to himself, “It’s Alive!!” An homage to his favorite movie of all time, Young Frankenstein. It became clear to me in that moment that it was Friday night, and we were all going to watch a movie. Entering the house while he shut the door behind, I felt the incumbent rush of joy as he rattled off his favorite Mark Twain quip, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Stephen Hawking was wrong.
Philosophy is not dead.
We may suffer from a plurality of dilettante who conflate an affinity for arguing, religious doctrines or memorization of Kant, Plato and Hume as constituting an expedient corner on wisdom. However, we cannot afford to allow the philosophy underlying science, skepticism, to be corrupted in such fashion that its wisdom is eclipsed by shallow or academic ego – adrift and impotent inside its charter of holding science accountable.
This new dawn of artificial intelligence, genetic technology, corporate power and social monitoring mandates that our philosopher be better equipped. Bearing prerequisite skills in science, business and government; experience in human nature and deception, and finally possessing an accrued and heartfelt love for humanity – traits which abet and check science along its course in serving us all, and prohibit its ethical neutrality from warping it into mankind’s greatest enemy.
The Ethical Skeptic, “Rumors of Philosophy’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 28 Jan 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9lV