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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Character Formation

The Big Idea for Friday, August 16, 2013

In a world of practical considerations, things which cannot be quantified are often ignored. But, following Aristotle, many think that the value of thinking abstractly has the benefit of character formation. If so, it is at our peril, including in terms of practical benefits, that we ignore ideas and philosophies which are not immediately relevant to daily life.

"Plato said the unexamined life isn't worth living," Kurt Vonnegut once quipped, "But what if the examined life turns out to be kind of a clunker as well?"

In his closing post on Big Think's Why Philosophize?, bestselling philosophical author Thomas Cathcart raises some good reasons why not to philosophize, but he and we must find them ultimately unconvincing, for they ignore the fact that the very act of questioning and thinking reasonably improves our characters, which fact has been intuitively obvious to nearly every great mind for this or any other time.


  1. 1 Aristotle’s “Formation”: From Camp Lore to Trolley Navigation
    Thomas Cathcart Why Philosophize?
  2. 2 Is The Chair Really There? And Should I Really Care?
    Thomas Cathcart Why Philosophize?
  3. 3 The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions (Video)
    Slavoj Žižek Postcards from Žižek
  4. 4 The Common Character Trait of Geniuses: A Passion for Abstraction
    James Gleick In Their Own Words

Character Formation

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