A Philosophical Top 10 List for the 21st Century
10. Finding a new basis for common sensibilities and common values.
The world is more economically interconnected than it has ever been. But it still seethes with divisions and social fragmentation. Can we find a new basis for shared values that will bring us together rather than tear us apart?
9. Finding a new basis for social identification.
Distant and powerful forces, not answerable to local communities, shape so much of our lives. Howcan we sustain local communities, communities with which we can identify? Or is the very idea of a local community an outmoded parochial idea suited only to centuries gone by?
8. The Mind-Body problem.
Neuroscience is revealing so much about the brain. Does this new knowledge solve age-old mysteries of the mind? Or does it reduce the mind to mere dumb matter and rob us of what we once thought was so special about us?
7. Can freedom survive the onslaught of science?
Science, especially neuroscience, is revealing more and more about the true workings of the mind, threatening to explode our ancient beliefs about things like the freedom of the will. Can traditional practices that presuppose human freedom survive this scientific onslaught? If we are not really free is it really permissible to punish people, and even put them to death, for their wrongful acts?
6. Information and misinformation in the information age.
The 21st century threatens to wreak havoc on the social organization of information and knowledge. We are awash in a glut of information coming at us from all sources -- some reliable, some unreliable. But the old top-down authorities that once functioned to certify some information as true and other information as false, are quickly being dismantled. How can we distinguish the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff? We philosophers for a new century thus face epistemological problems hardly imagined by our predecessors.
5. Intellectual property, in the age of re-mix culture.
Ideas now spread like wildfire -- mixing and re-mixing in the blink of an eye. Can the very idea of intellectual property survive in the age of re-mix? Are outmoded ideas of property stifling the growth of a new culture?
4. New models of collective decision making and collective rationality.
Solving the problems of the 21st Century will require coordinated rational action on a massive scale. But we really have no models of collective rationality, no idea of the institutional, social, political and economic structures that will allow us to meet these challenges. Can philosophers help build them in time to guide us in meeting the challenges of this century?
3. What is a person?
WIth the rise of cloning,designer babies, and drugs that can alter one's personality, enhance one's memory, or make one smarter, we may be forced to rethink the very idea of human person. What exactly is a human person, when every aspect of our biological and genetic and psychological make-up can be manipulated at will? What, if any, part of a person is fixed and unchanging?
2. Humans and the environment.
What relationship should humans have to the environment? Are we called to be stewards of the environment? Or is the environment just there for our exploitation and use? Never in the history of humankind have such questions been so pressing. But we have barely begun to think about them in a systematic philosophical way.
And the number one philosophical problem for the 21st Century:
1. Global Justice.
What new principles of justice will help us manage distinctively 21st Century problems like preserving the environment while allowing the poorer nations of the world to improve their standards of living? The philosophy of the past has given no real models for answering such questions. It is urgent that philosopher of the 21st century do so.