Thursday, April 16, 2015

Philosophy in Colleges and Novels

As I look tomorrow perhaps to add a page to the novel we all know I'm not going to finish (currently on page 10), I turn to the place of philosophy in a college curriculum.

1. In terms of the cognitive, philosophy stands at the very center of all university education. At first thought you might think, wouldn't it be Bible or theology for a Christian college? (This is, BTW, a philosophical question.) Bible and theology are more important for formation, but you cannot process either without cognition, which is a matter of philosophy.

Philosophy stands alongside every field of knowledge asking, "What are you doing there?" "How do you propose to process that content?" This includes our cognitive processing of theology or the Bible. We can be transformed without cognitive knowledge, but to obtain knowledge we must input it. Our minds must give cognitive organization to it.

From this standpoint, philosophy is the central cognitive discipline. Brute facts are meaningless if they are not organized or put within a context. How are you going to organize it? That's philosophy. Philosophy is the a priori discipline of thinking.

What about presuppositions, Ken? Presuppositions stand in the domain of philosophy. To the extent that the content of the Bible informs presuppositions, we are looking at the Bible from a philosophical viewpoint. The mechanism of processing the Bible's content is hermeneutics, which is the philosophy of meaning. To the extent that theology engages a mechanism of thinking, being, or doing, then we are engaging the philosophical dimensions of theology or the Bible.

Philosophy stands alongside all disciplines because it is the "meta" discipline. Philosophy of science reflects on what science is. Philosophy of art reflects on what art is. Philosophy of religion reflects on what religion is. Philosophy of history reflects on what history is. Psychology was a branch of philosophy before it became experimental. Epistemology asks how it is that we know anything at all. Ethics asks what the value of doing and being is. Ontology asks if any of this is real in the first place.

Our Christian philosophy might tell us than formation is more important than cognition. But as far as cognition goes, there is no field that is more fundamental than philosophy.

2. In the novel, Germany is the primary place for philosophy, although some philosophy is taught at all the locations. In the novel, Germany is primarily a center of phenomenological thinking, steeped in Heidegger, Gadamer, and friends. It emphasizes the situatedness of knowledge. Paris will fit with this as a center of existentialism and postmodernism.

I'm using Italy as a Machiavellian, Nietzschean center of sorts. That leaves Cambridge for Wittgenstein, pragmatism, and analytical philosophy. The protagonist will visit all these places in every novel.

In the first novel, he will spend his first three months in Cambridge. The focus will be science but each center is also selling a philosophy from which he will choose. The philosophy they will try to sell him on is pragmatism, a sense that ideas and language are tools we use to make our way through this world.

Bologna will try to sell a kind of Machiavellian realpolitik, where the end almost always justifies the means. Paris will try to sell him an existentialist outlook. Göttingen will just annoy the protagonist in this regard. :-)

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