Another think coming

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Wayne Hall over at the IdeaFestival blog posted an interesting post:

“According to the Financial Times some philosophers have set about mending the rift between experience and thought in order to make the discipline relevant again to a wider audience.”[1]

The article details how one philosopher has merged philosophy and performance and goes to to mention about the underlying effort. Here is a bit from the Financial Times article:

“Now the mood seems to be shifting, slowly, mainly because high-profile academics working in the strongholds of English analytic philosophy want their discipline to become engaged again. ”Philosophy has become far too professionalised,” says Sir Anthony Kenny, a former Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and one of Britain’s most distinguished living philosophers.

He laments that much of the work done in philosophy departments today is inaccessible to other philosophers, let alone the public at large. In some subjects, such as physics, such complexity is unavoidable since the ”raw material” of the subject takes years to master. ”But philosophers don’t have information that is unavailable to others. In philosophy the best of it should be available to all.”

”Spending time contributing to the public conversation is a kind of duty. And philosophical ideas and perspectives become impoverished when there is a lack of it,” Professor Grayling observes. ”Ten years ago when I started writing for a popular audience, it was looked down upon. Now this does not happen. We are recovering a sense of philosophy as taking part in a popular debate.”[2]

Thanks to Postmodernism

I think this is a delayed reaction to postmodernist proposals. Art, cultural studies, critical theory and postmodernists spent years calling philosophy to come out from the academia and interact with people in general. Some postmodernists attempted to flatten out the hierarchical systems. They attempted to remove the “official” and the “formal” out by creating official-unofficial hybridity across time, genres, class, race, language, ethnicity and other value-charged concepts.

The postmodernists “dirtied up” philosophy in order to bring it down from the academic pedestal and make it accessible to the people on general. They promoted the recognition of spoken philosophies and the philosophies in songs, comic books and popular culture in general. At the same time some of the postmodern philosophy was confusing and unacessible – but I also think that the philosophers that wrote those works were trying to prove a point by showing how language was full of dynamic fuzzyness and interplays in meaning that shifted back and forth like Escher drawings, like moebius strips, like paradoxes, like dialectical concepts.

But if we can move beyond either/or thinking perhaps we can understand philosophy as a possible dynamic phenomenon-concept that can move in and out of official boxes.

Food for thought

  • Why is the Financial Times writing about philosophy?

Sources

[1] Hall, Wayne. 2007. IdeaFestival (blog). “Performance Philosophy“. May 24, 2007. >>

[2] Vernon, Mark. 2007. Financial Times. “Another Think Coming” May 11, 2007. >>

On Wikipedia

List of Philosophies” >>

List of Philosophy Topics” >>

Elsewhere

Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy >>

Relevant books

Blackburn, S. (2005). The Oxford dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Iannone, A. P. (2001). Dictionary of world philosophy. New York: Routledge.

Osborne, R. (2005). Philosophy for beginners. London: Zidane. An illustrated comic book on philosophy.
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Daniel Montano
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Keyword: Daniel Montano, Dan Montano, user experience design, information architect

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