A friend recently sent me one of the best podcast episodes I’ve heard in a long time. You must listen to it. (And have a laugh at the name of the podcast series, The Art of Manliness 😂)
I’ve always loved the book The Meeting of East and West because it gave a historical chronology of philosophy and the various offshoots of societies, governments, and economies that occurred as a result of the most powerful philosophical forces of the times. The book does this for western civilization and then eastern civilization. It then describes the differences in a way that I found to be hugely enlightening. It has never left me.
Jacob Howland is a professor of philosophy who does the same thing for our modern times in the US circa 2020. He touches on the development of critical theory, where it came from, and even gives historical context for the philosophy that developed around Karl Marx’s ideas and how they contrast with classical liberalism (the foundation of the American system of government, enlightenment values, and so on).
Other topics he touches upon: how some theories focus on equality of groups rather than of individuals (which matters more: our group identity or the content of our character?), Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Ancient Greece, Plato, the protestant work ethic, and much more.
Ultimately the point is that there is a sort of “secular religion” that has taken hold in some circles in our society and thinking about it this way provides extremely useful tools for understanding different perspectives (another important enlightenment value).