Thursday, July 26, 2012

4. My credentials

For readers who already know some philosophy I would like to indicate my movements on the map of philosophy.  I promise not to assume much knowledge of philosophy in this blog, but here I must refer to some names and streams in philosophy without immediately explaining all the philosophy involved. However, when the reader simply disregards those names for now, what I describe as some of the main themes in my philosophy is understandable, I hope.

Philosophers who meant most to me are Aristotle (rather than Plato), David Hume, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, the pragmatists (Peirce, James, Dewey, G.H Mead), Merleau-Ponty and later ‘embodied cognition’ philosophers and scientists (Damasio, Lakoff and Johnson, Edelman, and others), the ‘genetic epistemologist’ Jean Piaget, and Emmanuel Levinas, the ‘philosopher of the other’. Among contemporary philosophers I have greatly benefited from the work of especially Charles Taylor, on the history of ideas, and of Martha Nussbaum, in becoming Aristotelian in my ethics. Overall, my philosophy is more ‘continental’ than ‘English’.

I deeply distrust the human urge, so evident in platonic philosophy, towards unworldly absolute, universal, immutable ideas and ideals. While I admit that we need universals I am more interested in individuals and I am suspicious of the tendency of universalistic thought to erase or subjugate the individual. That happened in much religion, but also in political ideologies, in both communism and capitalism.

I am particularly interested in change of ideas. That gives one of the reasons for calling this blog ‘Philosophy on the move’.  That theme of change is closely related to my professional work over many years on innovation and entrepreneurship. I think that a number of perennial philosophical conundrums can be resolved if we take a dynamic approach, looking how ideas form and are changed as a result of experience and debate.

While I endorse enlightenment and humanist striving for reasonableness and critical debate, for human rights, and for freedom and self-realization of the individual, I think that the power of reason is limited, that reason and feelings are intertwined and rooted in the body, and that the individual is not autonomous, needing others to develop and realize itself.

Here, I am trying to sail a course between on the one hand the dynamic flourishing of life that Nietzsche sought and on the other hand feeling for others, empathy and altruism, which, counter to Nietzsche, I argue is needed for self-realization. This project was developed in my recent book ‘Beyond humanism: The flourishing of life, self and other’ (Palgrave-MacMillan 2012). A number of items in this blog will be derived from that book.  

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