A What is Philosophy? How is Philosophy Related to the Earth Constitution?

Glen T. Martin

July 2021

Long ago, at age 19, I began to search for the meaning of life. I read a book that year called The Inward Morning, written by a contemporary philosopher named H.G. Bugbee, that was written as a spiritual journal. The author reflected on his experiences, the books he was reading, on his own life and search for meaning and liberation. One sentence in particular about philosophy comes back to me: “Philosophy is not about a making of a home for the mind out of reality, it is more like learning to leave things be—restoration in the wilderness here and now” (155).

The theme of “wilderness” played a large role in Bugbee’s thought, in his own spiritual journey, his wide reading in the literatures of the world, and his search for meaning and liberation in relation to our universal human condition.

When I went to college the following year and began to major in philosophy, I found that few of my philosophy courses addressed this question concerning an “inward morning.” In my first philosophy course in college, however, we did read Plato’s Apology in which Socrates defends himself in court when he was on trial for “corrupting the youth” and “teaching false gods.”  Socrates declares:

While I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting anyone whom I meet after my manner, and convincing him, saying: O my friend, why do you…care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all?

Life should be about the search for wisdom and truth and improvement of the soul. It is a quest, Socrates declares, in “obedience to god,” to search for a way of life in harmony with the ground of Being and the foundations of existence. It is a life-long process of growth in wisdom and truth, never reaching an end, never making a final claim to “possess the truth.”  

My undergraduate courses in philosophy did not appear to me to help much with this, nor most of my graduate courses.  In graduate school, many of my philosophy professors believed that philosophy was about analysis, that training in philosophy was training in logic, thinking, and the ability to analyze arguments and to show where they were weak, misguided, or fallacious.  Philosophy was a skill for these professors, not a quest.

But I did learn in those years about the history of war in the world and about the terrible Vietnam War during which the United States was saturation bombing civilians by the millions in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I learned about nuclear weapons that were situated in the US and Soviet Union able to wipe out all of humanity in a “mutual assured destruction.” I learned about global poverty, and the histories of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. I learned that humanity did not appear to have progressed beyond the condition of the ancient Athenians that Socrates had addressed in the 5th century BCE. We were still concerned with money and power rather than “wisdom, truth, and the improvement of the soul.”

Was there a connection?  Is there a connection between the war-system, the exploitation system, the dehumanization system, the destruction of nature system, and the lack of concern for “wisdom, truth, and the improvement of the soul”?  I began to realize that the crisis of modern civilization, in which today we are on the verge of making ourselves extinct through nuclear war and destruction of our planetary ecosystem, is the crisis of a civilization that has ignored philosophy, not “philosophy” as an academic discipline, but philosophy as the quest for human awakening, liberation, wisdom, and harmony with the ground of Being.

At that time I studied the works of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who saw that the progressive revelations of science had the effect of calling into question all traditional values and viewpoints on the meaning of life. He called this crisis “nihilism” and predicted that human “barbarism” would only increase as all traditional values disintegrated under the onslaught of science and technology. Indeed, the horrific history of the 20th century proved him right (Glover 1999).

About the same time, I discovered the works of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who studied language, revealing “the limits of language” and the fact that language, which is intrinsically “conventional,” cannot penetrate to the depths of being. If we want “wisdom, truth, and improvement of the soul,” we will have to discover what some have called “the silence of God” (Panikkar 1989), the silence of being, the wisdom of unsayability, what some traditions have called the “apophatic” path into the depths of existence, beyond thought and language, beyond technology and science.

I discovered that some philosophers from Eastern traditions, such as Nagarjuna, the great South Indian thinker of the 2nd century, had also analyzed language in this way. I published articles such as “The Religious Nature of Wittgenstein’s Later Thought” (1988) and “Deconstruction and Breakthrough in Nietzsche and Nagarjuna” (1991) that coalesced and solidified these insights. I began to experience some of the universality of truth and wisdom sought by all the great traditions of the world.

Since 1995, when I discovered the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, I have worked to unite humanity under this Earth Constitution. The Constitution is carefully designed to end the war-system on our planet, to establish a peace system, a justice system, and a sustainability system for the Earth.  To do this is imperative in the face of our current planetary trajectory toward self-extinction through nuclear war and climate destruction.

What does all this about “philosophy” have to do with ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth? Precisely this: universality.  Our individual spiritual quests are part of a common human quest. We are one planetary civilization, one common humanity, one common phenomenon of self-awareness emerging from the ground of Being. 

We human beings cannot go further; we cannot awaken to our common need for a civilization based on “wisdom, truth, and improvement of the soul” until we realize our oneness with one another and give up the absurd fragmentation of humanity into opposing militarized nation-states, races, religions, and superficial ideologies. The realization of our human unity and universality means the realization that we are all in this together and we will only solve our most fundamental problems if we embrace philosophy.

That is, we must embrace our common human quest to actualize the gift given to us by the cosmos: the gift of what some traditions have called “divinization,” the possibility that we continue to evolve in harmony with the ground of being and our emergent evolutionary destiny. This is what philosophy is about.  This is what ratification of the Earth Constitution makes possible.  To pursue and actualize our common human destiny is impossible while the world remains divided into absolute militarized fragments called “sovereign nation-states.”

The Constitution is based on the twin principles of unity in diversity, on one hand, and our common human dignity and equality on the other hand. That is why it gives us global democracy, a democracy that does not mean the rule of irrational prejudices but rather the rule of a World Parliament premised on unity in diversity, dignity, and equality for all human beings as well as harmony with our endangered planetary ecosystem. 

Philosophy literally means “love of wisdom,” from two Greek works philia and Sophia. The Earth Constitution both embodies the wisdom of our common human project and makes possible the further evolutionary journey of human beings toward “wisdom, truth, and improvement of the soul.” That is why we need to ratify this Earth Constitution.

Works Cited

Bugbee, H.G. (1961). The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form. New York: Collier Books.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  On-line at www.earthconstitution.world

Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Martin, Glen T. (1989). “The Religious Nature of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy,” in Philosophy Today, Volume 32, Number 3, fall 1988, pp.207‑220.

Martin, Glen T. (1991). “Deconstruction and Breakthrough in Nietzsche and Nagarjuna,” in Graham Parks, ed., Nietzsche and Asian Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, pp. 91-111.

Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet.  Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.

Panikkar, Raimon (1989). The Silence of God: The Answer of Buddha. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Plato.  The Apology of Socrates. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. On-line at: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html