The following was written by Praxis participant Mary Peterson.
At the Praxis kick off in Charleston last week, I sat for a video interview with Drew and Helen Tidwell, producers of I, Pencil as they pieced together a promotional video. “Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?” they asked. “Entrepreneurs are the movers and shakers” I said wryly, feeling content with my one-off answer. Entrepreneurs are doers.
If entrepreneurs are doers, why think about the fundamental questions with which philosophers wrestle? What use does the life of the mind have for a businessperson trying to get his or her feet off the ground? Philosophy is so bourgeois that any self-respecting bootstrapping entrepreneur should reject academia as a trap to slow them down.
As I’m learning from Praxis’s philosophy curriculum, getting wrapped up in ivory-tower-intellectual terms negates the true value of self-reflection. After all, even though no two philosophers agree on a single definition of philosophy, approaching the material world thoughtfully, with respect for the life of the mind, yields the products that are closest to our needs and desires. It causes us to reflect and think critically about all that we do. If we want to create value through our entrepreneurial offering, we must be thoughtful about cultural trends and their undercurrents in lasting reality. Reflection can be a catalyst for success. If we hope to create compelling products, we need to know the motivations behind what we do and why we use the products or services that we do. Constantly pressing for the “why?” is the thread connecting all the philosophers we’ve heard.
Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo, look for answers to questions that most people don’t ask. Philosophers take the answers to questions not asked and challenge them further, using the Socratic method to derive truth from the arbitrary or skepticism to challenge empirical claims.
So, while Praxis is a program for entrepreneurs, it must be remembered that entrepreneurs are, themselves, philosophers.