When I finished reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, a book which covers almost every topic of his day, some that were certainly ahead of his epoch, and others which are still utterly relevant today, it struck me, in the final segment of the final chapter, how bitterly melancholic his tone was, for the fact hinted that to critically think had already begun to die out even then.
We exist in a world that, some might say, lacks the clarity of a straightforward lifestyle as Nietzsche was able to experience; for society nowadays, we enjoy seeking thrills and striving for fast options, including in relationships and jobs. But a job and an occupation are two very different things entirely. We honestly don’t have the chance in time to weigh up each option that we might have.
And so, I come back to the point at hand: I believe that thinkers like Nietzsche – as controversially negative on all fronts as he was – are far and few nowadays. Indeed, academics we have, those sorts who are able to think around the question, but the newer generations seem to lack the mind-set to want to think of the issues of morals that surround us deeply.
Of course, I believe that society would benefit in many ways from the augmentation of great thinkers throughout – and that we should begin to make thought the kind of topic that does not bear an exclusive, far-away label. Thinking skills do certainly not only belong to the daydreamers or the arguers; I believe that it is possible for most people to be able to possess a way of thinking, but that the discipline is so far unconsciously within them that they do not realise this potential. Modern society has caused us to forget the moments of contemplation and deliberation of each complex thing (by this I imply that, in some ways, everything is complex).
How can we encourage the renewal of critical, analytic and classical thinking? We can attempt to teach these things in schools, but it is not an aptitude that all souls pick up. My own Philosophy lessons do tend to focus on the facts of the past, the names, matters and dates, rather than an education in observing the world and the thinking skills that one might need to ‘broaden horizons’. Thinking is not something that is considered a teachable discipline, so what can we do to enhance our skills in it?
For me, the answer is simply in studying what others – such as Nietzsche – have said and making a judgement of it (for one needs to make a proper judgement, so it has been said). One can also study the world around us to see its motions to discover what might be important. With my own interest in Psychology, I am able to watch the actions of society around. I don’t intend to judge the people I have met, but their actions are of interest when it comes to understanding life.
Thinking is not as simple as the word itself describes, but using the term ‘reflection’ might be more appropriate to revive the way the new generation should look at their world.