Friday, January 6, 2012

Next Episode of WHY? "A House Divided: Philosophy's Deepest Fault Line" with guest Gary Gutting

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WHY? Radio presents:

"A House Divided: Philosophy's Deepest Fault Line"
with guest Gary Gutting

January 8, 5 p.m. central
Listen live from anywhere in the world at and in North Dakota at 89.3 (Grand Forks), 91.9 (Fargo), 90.5 (Bismarck), and on Prairie Public radio stations across the state.
Should philosophy make things simpler or more complex? Should it describe the muddle of human emotions or simply give us the language to analyze them? The answers to these questions not only tell us what we can know, but also aligns us with of two very controversial philosophy camps. Join WHY? as we discuss one of philosophy's deepest and most divisive controversies: the battle between the "continentals" and the "analytics."

Gary Gutting holds the Notre Dame Chair in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He writes for both general and specialized audiences. His more recent work includes pieces in the New York Times philosophy blog “The Stone” and the books Foucault: A Very Short Introduction (2005) and French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (2001).

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  1. Before and after listening to this show I have been wondering what is the divide in philosophy and also what philosophers are for. As to the former it seems to me to still resolve to whether faith trumps data or vice versa. Perhaps I missed something or many things, it is easy to do as with streaming media, one cannot easily slow down or re-read the last paragraph and it is tedious to listen to the whole thing again.

    I had a thought about which I am uncertain. If philosophers are the only class to whom is given unfettered questioning does the society have the right to expect public integrative evaluations? No, change that to assertion, the public has such a right.

    About the acceptance of their unbounded questioning, it is not granted to others.
    For instance, James Hansen is a brilliant NASA environmental scientist. In our society his public views are expected to be bounded by both 'science' and 'environment'. Whether or not he has reasonable expectations about the socio-economic impacts of the likely paths of the evolving environment, he will be dismissed should he utter them and in his field his effectiveness may even diminish should he do so. To some degree this is a loss.

    Who should provide integrative analyses? I can think of two other classes with the duty to perform the role, politicians and journalists. In each category they also have other duties and limitations and so with hindsight evaluations we see that it is the extremely rare politician who becomes a statesman, Thucydides tells us Pericles; and an extremely rare journalist who elevates his craft to the level of what we with hindsight would call wisdom, perhaps Eric Severeid or Walter Cronkite. Humanity would be unwise to abandon the task to these classes (and the whims of the often misinformed populi).

    It seems to me that many philosophers are content to teach the history of thought, some of the methods of thought and being, and publish glosses on others thoughts or on others' exegeses. While these are virtuous activities they may not be sufficient to trend towards a more virtuous society, except at a glacial pace (except that glaciers are speeding up).

    As the society has spent efforts in providing for these beings whose thoughts are supposed to be integrative, we deserve, and they have the duty, to tell us how they think, and reasonings, and on where we might go, and recommend what to do. No one is bound to follow such, but society has the right to hear such.

    So far I have provided naught but exegesis on others' concepts and to avoid hypocrisy, although I make no claims to be a philosopher, then that is insufficient. Hence:

    1. Philosophers ought to be expected to frequently or periodically publish an analysis of a concept and recommendation that is outside the Overton window. I suspect this is the antithesis of what many feel is acceptable to their peers and administrators.

    2. Public forums for philosophy ought to be expected to not only ask questions but also speculate on quotidian meanings and citizen's recommended actions; or at least state that there are none for the issue discussed; or that there are several possible paths, possibly not consistent paths.

    I have applauded and supported IPPL and Why? and continue to do so, obviously. I ask that each issue discussed have appended to the presentation, say within a quarter of a year or so, a statement of something like “What you should do and why, as far as we are (or I am) concerned.”

    As for divides in philosophy I am sure there are many. However is it not my right to ask for philosophers to publish what are their overlapping consensi and where in particular do their overlapping consensi vary from the Overton window?

    I should like to be able to, it is my right to, at least consider the recommendations regarding “What you should do.”

  2. Overflow...

    Now I lack a recommended action. Back from re-listening to the Leitner and first Jenkinson shows on this site to shape my asking for action, and to at least partially check that I am not being redundant.

    One should write the provost of your closest university asking that those whose education we have paid for and are more than others paid to think are required to, even if infrequently, tell us what they think about the world and nation and where it is going. I'd prefer to ask it it of all specialties, but start with philosophers for the reasons above.

    In the unlikely event that the concept succeeds both we, our children, and they may become better citizens of a better place.