John Lachs is a fervent follower of the idea of relativism as is he a devoted educator both in theory and practice. His emphasizing of the benefits of relativism in philosophy on the one hand, and, on the other, stressing the role of teaching philosophy make me think of these two issues, that is ‘relativism’ and ‘philosophical education’ at the same time. I want to rethink of it in the context of the practical implementation with the teaching of undergraduate and graduate students who take philosophy courses (and similar courses: ethics, aesthetics, history of ideas, etc., be it in the classroom or online) within the institutions of higher education (at the departments of philosophy, humanities, the liberal arts, social sciences, and also outside of these). I think that this problem is important because it deals with the types of obligations of the philosophy teachers to provide their students with a responsible guidance as far as their (students’) developments is concerned, though the developments of the teachers are at stake here as well. An important part of this story is how much Lachs’s relativism is limited by his universal claims, and, hence, is it relativism at all. It seems to me that such terms as ‘responsibility,’ ‘obligation,’ and many others: ‘growth,’ ‘happiness,’ ‘critical dialogue,’ and ‘wisdom’ do not seem relative in Lachs’s texts at all, yet they constitute the main substance of his message on philosophy in education.
Above is a fragment of an open seminar at European University of Viadrina, in Polish, on practical philosophy (pol. filozofia praktyczna). I talk to the about happiness, the beautiful, and freedom as some of the basic philosophical ideas that we practically deal with in our ordinary and daily lives. You do not have to be a university philosopher to practice these things; a modicum of reflection is enough to start ‘doing’ philosophy, and this was the main message of my seminar at Viadrina University.
I claim, that we deal with the political (and politics: a stricter division of these terms seems to me merely academic) when some people, in the name of a given worldview, (try to) impose, dictate, promote, and/or persuade—with different scale of intensification—values, norms, and ways of thinking upon other people. Most effectively, this imposition (and dictation, promotion, and/or persuasion) takes place by means of the institutionalized forms of socio-political life: the cultural policy, the education system, the mass media, religion, moralities, the policies practiced by particular governments, and many others, and this does not take place exclusively in democratic countries. Most probably any socio-political system, be it democratic or theocratic, old or modern, Western or Eastern must philosophically justify—by its most vocal institutions, authority figures, and specific agendas—its basic axiological assumptions about what is good, true, and beautiful, if we want to use the vocabulary of classic thought in this case. In this way, we deal with different types of impositions, the dictation, the promotion, and/or the persuasion of a given way, or ways, of thinking upon others, as regards ethics, public affairs, the role of the individual in social life, liberties, and a great variety of other problems. [Read more…]
Santayana on The History of Philosophy. Santayana is a good example for us to see at least four different approaches to the history of philosophy: 1) studying the past authors to see what they really claimed and why, 2) using past authors and their ideas as “a quarry or a touchstone for my own thoughts” (PGS 543), 3) contributing to (the history of) philosophy by originally developing selected problems, issues, and ideas that have been circulating through time, and 4) comparing ideas, texts, and worldviews that have been proposed by the great authors.
Santayana on Music. “Music is essentially useless, as life is: but both have an ideal extension which lends utility to its conditions” (LR 315) – these are perhaps the most famous words of Santayana’s philosophy of music. They somewhat remind us of the Stoic wisdom according to which things in life are indifferent, but the use we make of them is not indifferent (cf. Epictetus, 2.5.1). Santayana’s philosophy of music is a combination of naturalism (music is a part of the natural world) and ‘naturalized Platonism’ (music has ideal meanings). [Read more…]