Welcome to the eightieth issue of The Philosophers’ Magazine. As we cruise comfortably past our twentieth year, take a moment to think about what the world was like when our first issue hit the stands. Bill Clinton began his second term of office. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone appeared. Steve Jobs returned to work at a struggling business called Apple. For the first time, a computer beat a chess world Champion — IBM’s Deep Blue took on Gary Kasparov and won. Hale-Bopp lit up the sky. And, god help us, Pokemon showed up on Japanese television. The world certainly isn’t what it was — it never is — but however much it changes, there’s still that unchanging, ancient drive some of us feel. A desire to get to the bottom of what’s going on, to understand the meaning of things. Hale-Bopp is a long way away, and Daniel Radcliffe is all grown up, but the impulse to philosophise is pretty much now what is was then.
To celebrate 20 years of philosophy in pages like these, we’ve decided to look mostly forward, and ask philosophers we admire to speculate on the future of philosophy. In this issue’s forum, we think a little about where we’re headed. Can we say anything about what philosophy might be like in 100 years, in 1,000 years – will we still read Plato in 3018? We’ll look back a bit too. I’m very happy to say that our founding editor, Julian Baggini, has agreed to tell us about what it was like to launch The Philosophers’ Magazine — you can read all about our unlikely origins in this issue’s feature.
There’s a real mix of thinking in the central essays in this issue — you’ll find reflection on what hermits can tell us about the value of dialogue, the ethics of poker, conspiracy theories and contemporary politics, new waves in Anglo-Chinese philosophy, the meaning of elegance, the aesthetics of pottery, what light Plotinus might shed on the mind-body problem, and some remarkable Buddhist insights one might glean from LEGO.
As tempted as I am to wonder whether The Philosophers’ Magazine will be around in twenty years, I am rightly if unusually restrained by a half-remembered line the Internet tells me is owed to Marcus Aurelius, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Interesting thought, in times like these, that reason furnishes us with weapons.