PW3

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Images illustrating excerpts from "Passion for Wisdom" by Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins

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PW3

  1. 1. "to be is to be perceived" "leap of faith" intellectual love of God"; bliss = acceptance or "resignation" the "owl of Minerva" "principle of sufficient reason"; "best of all possible worlds" eternal recurrence; "God is dead" Self-reliance; Oversoul "Sapere aude!" (Have courage to use your own reason.) language games; forms of life Dasein ("There-Being"); Being-in-the-World "one must consider Sisyphus happy" stream of experience; radical empiricism Emerson. Berkeley. James. Heidegger. Wittgenstein. Kierkegaard. Hegel. Camus. Spinoza. Nietzsche. Leibniz. Kant
  2. 2. Thoreau, Emerson and the other New England Transcendentalists brought the tradition of Kant and Hegel to America, giving it a distinctive New World flavor.
  3. 3. American Transcendentalism • ··Ralph Waldo Emerson • ··Henry David Thoreau • ··Margaret Fuller • ··[Dr.] William Ellery Channing • ··Theodore Parker • ··Amos Bronson Alcott • ··Jones Very • ··[William] Ellery Channing • ··Christopher Cranch • ··Orestes Brownson • ··Elizabeth Palmer Peabody • ··Other Transcendentalists
  4. 4. Simplify, simplify It is never too late to give up your prejudices.
  5. 5. William James (1842-1910), on the border of philosophy and psychology, exalted experience and a "radical empiricism" that would resist the compromises and false turns of the earlier empiricists. But he was sure that J.S. Mill "would be our leader if he were with us today."
  6. 6. "He first popularized pragmatism and brought it out of the halls of Harvard into the mainstream of American intellectual life." And he agreed with Dewey that the problems of philosophers should be no other than the problems of men. Pragmatism is nothing more or less than a method for testing ideas by challenging them to make a difference in our experience of the world.
  7. 7. PRAGMATISM A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking By William James (1907) ...delivered at the Lowell Institute in Boston in November and December, 1906, and in January, 1907, at Columbia University, in New York To the Memory of John Stuart Mill from whom I first learned the pragmatic openness of mind and whom my fancy likes to picture as our leader were he alive to-day.
  8. 8. I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds. You know the same of me... the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos...
  9. 9. THE TENDER- MINDED Rationalistic (going by 'principles'), Intellectualistic, Idealistic, Optimistic, Religious, Free-willist, Monistic, Dogmatical. THE TOUGH- MINDED Empiricist (going by 'facts'), Sensationalistic, Materialistic, Pessimistic, Irreligious, Fatalistic, Pluralistic, Sceptical. Most of us have a hankering for the good things on both sides of the line... our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout.
  10. 10. Lecture II What Pragmatism Means Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find everyone engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel--a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree's opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: DOES THE MAN GO ROUND THE SQUIRREL OR NOT?
  11. 11. He goes round the tree, sure enough, and the squirrel is on the tree; but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Everyone had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the numbers on both sides were even. Each side, when I appeared, therefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Which party is right," I said, "depends on what you PRACTICALLY MEAN by 'going round' the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him, for he occupies these successive positions. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then behind him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as obvious that the man fails to go round him, for by the compensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction, and there is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceivethe verb 'to go round' in one practical fashion or the other."
  12. 12. John Dewey (1859-1952) said children learn by doing and participating, not just listening, reading, and spectating; and they learn best what they love to do. "Education is experience, and experience is the process of problem-solving, participatory and engaged."
  13. 13. Bertrand Russell’s atomism tried to reduce the world’s complexity to its simplest linguistic and logical constituents, or “atoms” - an attempt to diagnose and then repair the confusions and errors of ordinary language, in favor of an idealized logical language that presumably would mirror reality... to the extent that reality is the sort of thing any language can replicate. Wittgenstein
  14. 14. But there was a lot more to Russell (1872-1970) than mathematics and logic. His technical philosophy was a search for logical atoms and an attempt to "reduce the complexity of the world," but his popular philosophy showed real awareness and appreciation of the possible richness of experience. Unlike most analytic philosophers, he was a genuine "public intellectual." In a time of crisis and horror, formal and technical philosophy could indeed seem more irrelevant (a "waste of time") than consoling (a "refuge").
  15. 15. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) eventually revised his own early picture theory of linguistic meaning, in favor of the view that meaning depends on the purposes and uses of sentences.
  16. 16. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 1 The world is everything that is the case. * 2 What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts. 3 The logical picture of the facts is the thought. 4 The thought is the significant proposition. 5 Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.) 6 The general form of truth-function is: [, , N()]. This is the general form of proposition. 7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
  17. 17. Heidegger said we should acknowledge our own personal mortality and admit that “I will die.” “Heidegger's Clothes” - Robert January
  18. 18. Albert Camus (1913-1960) as philosopher - Sisyphus rescues his life from meaninglessness and affirms its worth by embracing the tedium and repetition of his “rock-pushing” - and so may we all. Camus died "absurdly" in a car crash, after pondering Sisyphus and his rock... and concluding that Sisyphus was "happy" (and not, at least, dead by his own hand). Suicide (literal, not philosophical) is our primary question, and once we face it down we're free to find a kind of contentment and meaning in the shadow of that free choice. We have it in our own power to confer that meaning.
  19. 19. ...I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
  20. 20. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) said we’re always free to choose, and to change our attitudes and behaviors; and that it’s “bad faith” to see oneself in terms of a fixed and unchanging essence... “Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it...” Existentialism is a Humanism Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
  21. 21. "Surprisingly few philosophers talk very much about the family..." Few women could break into the "old boys" clubs of philosophy, let alone professional schools, until very recently. But there have always been female philosophers. Hypatia was one of the earliest. Others include Hannah Arendt and Margaret Fuller... "One of the most radical changes feminism has provoked is the centrality of a personal ‘standpoint'..." Pluralism is not an exclusively feminist value, but perhaps it is in important respects characteristically feminine to seek inclusion and diversity rather than exclusive objectivity.
  22. 22. “Postmodernism” is roughly the view that western philosophy is obsolete and the search for truth is irrelevant. There are only "‘discourses," no center or "mainstream" in philosophy. But if this is the case, it is a deficiency that our times require us to overcome. We have too many challenges, global, political, interpersonal, spiritual... to rest content with the marginalization of intellectual life. “New Age” philosophy is very loosely based on the premise that mind can manifest reality directly, that we can get what we want if we want it in the right way. There's room for it if it is a beginning of thought, not its terminus.
  23. 23. Solomon and Higgins have little regard for the excesses of postmodernism or the silliness of the newest New Age fads. But they rightly note that the popularity of such notions clearly indicates a continuing, widespread general interest in ideas that philosophers should answer. In this respect, the future of philosophy looks promising – if the philosophers will heed the example of William James, John Dewey, and others who believed that philosophy must concern itself not with the problems of philosophers but with the problems of men, and women.

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