Are We Nowist? A New Word for World Philosophy Day

Happy World Philosophy Day! Or instead of “happy” should that be “perplexing”, “wise”… perhaps there’s a warm-up question in there? This year WPD is Thursday 15th November. I’d like to mark it by inviting your classes to consider a brand-new philosophical word, “nowism”. I’m using it in analogy to racism or sexism, as “acting or thinking as if now people matter more than future people”.
Are we nowist? Is it wrong to be nowist? There is a lot to explore about environmental ethics, rights and responsibilities between the generations and so on. I’ve tried to make it accessible by focusing on the idea of a new-born baby, and how we wouldn’t say it mattered less because of its race or sex – so why should the year when it is born matter?
There’s a basic video here:
The script for the video is pasted below, and is also attached for download here along with some suggestions for taking the thinking deeper.
Best wishes,
PS. Apologies to anybody who is waiting for an email response from me to a booking enquiry, or for P4C advice. Exceptionally busy term (I think I’m driving 3000 miles this month so will have to plant some trees as penance if I am not to be a nowist!) and I have a long list of people to get back to. If you would like to book up for January or chase me about something, the best thing is to ring me on 07843 555355 (UK) – still some spaces on some of the big INSET days at start of 2019. I will work back through emails as soon as I get the chance.

Imagine a new born baby. A new born baby hasn’t done anything yet. It can’t be blamed for being naughty or praised for what it has achieved. It’s just a baby. It can’t do much for itself, so it needs other people to think about what it needs and to take care of it.

We would think someone strange if they say that one baby matters more, and another baby matters less. Unless it’s their own baby, of course – every baby is special to its parents, and to their friends and family. But imagine someone says, “This baby is not important. It matters less than the others.”

If they say the baby matters less because of the colour of its skin, we’d say, “That’s racist!”

If they say the baby matters less because of its sex, we would say, “That’s sexist!”

But if they say the baby matters less because it is not born now, but will be born 200 years from now, what should we say?

Should we say, “That’s nowist!”

What I mean by “nowist” is “acting and thinking as if now people matter more than future people”.

It’s important because some of the choices we make now, as individuals or as countries, are likely to have an impact on the lives of babies born in 200 or even 2000 years’ time.

For example, if farming for now people destroys a habitat and makes an animal extinct, future people will not be able to see it – unless they can bring it back from extinction with new technology. Is it nowist to allow the animal to go extinct?

Or maybe I’m taking things a bit too far. We don’t act as if people who live in far away countries are as important as we are, or we’d spend more money helping those that are poorer than us. So maybe it’s not our responsibility to worry about people who are far away from us in time either. Or maybe it is?

Here are some questions you could think about:

Is a now born baby more important than a future born baby?

Is the word “nowism” useful?

Is nowism as bad as sexism or racism?

How nowist are we? How nowist are you?

What should we do about nowism?

I’d be interested to hear your answers, and your own questions about nowism, as this is a new word and I’m not sure what I think about it yet.

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