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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.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

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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Today's Big Idea: Socratic Philosophy

The Big Idea for Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thinking is driven by asking questions. When something appears to be common sense, or is something that "goes without saying," we can see how thinking starts to break down.

That is where philosophy can step in and can help us "arrive at what is not being said," the philosopher Slavoj Žižek tells Big Think. In other words, philosophy teaches us what we need to know without knowing it. 

Žižek says that questions are often posed in a way that obfuscates, mystifies or confuses a problem. An example Žižek points to is the way we translate questions of racism and sexism into the terms of tolerance. If you read the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, you will never hear about "tolerance," which is such a timid request. 

"Tolerance" is just one example of conventional wisdom setting the tone for the conversation. According to Žižek that is why we need philosophy to "correct the question," and enable us "to ask the right question."  

Today we're examining how to think -- the physics, the process, the search for meaning beyond ourselves.


  1. 1 Why Tolerance Is Not a Virtue
    Megan Erickson Postcards from Žižek
  2. 2 The Physics of Thought
    David Albert
  3. 3 Where does our instinct for philosophy come from?
    Michael Sandel
  4. 4 Lisa Randall: Do you believe in absolute truth?
    Lisa Randall

Today's Big Idea: Socratic ...

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