5 Questions for Rethinking Civilization [Edelman]

I’ve been following Joe Edelman’s writing on Medium for a few months now with mixed feelings. I’ve enjoyed seeing him explore the boundaries/future of work, often times with surprising conclusions. Yet sometimes, I found the discussions a bit too abstract or the outcome toom extreme for me to relate to.

Five Questions for Rethinking Civilization

While not perfect, it is so far the post I enjoyed the most. Questions are a powerful tool and while they’re being used here a bit more as a rhetorical tool than truly open-ended curiosity, it does not dimish their effect. Eleman questions 5 assumptions that seem deeply baked-into our current model of (western) civilization/society as a way to uncover a new path towards an interesting alternative:

  1. What can of freedom can a solitary person achieve? Edelman questions the “cult of individuality” and the limited possibilities that are available if “every man is an island”.
  2. Which is better, a society where people make moral decisions at every level, or one where moral decisions are made by “disinterested” systems and structures? The observation here is that something profound may have gotten lost by doing the latter.
  3. Is material wealth the thing to aim for? Or is it more important to create environments of meaning? Nothing new in this one. The age-old debate on the diminishing returns of wealth.
  4. What do people yearn for most: scientific knowledge, or knowledge about how to live well? The “scientific method” has not yet been applied, in all its might, towards discovering the best ways for living well.
  5. Why do we teach our children responsibility, but not integrity? This one is not that well phrased or offers a false dichotomy in my opinion. But the underlying point still rings true: there seems to be a promising upside in learning to uncover our values and living in a way that stays true to them.