Monday, December 10, 2012

The Art of Philosophy - Wisdom as a Practice

Franz Kafka
Peter Sloterdijk is a new acquaintance for me. Thanks goes to my friend and teacher of philosophy Jean Carlos Luz for introducing me to this intellectual giant. Sloterdijk is a professor of aesthetics and philosophy at the Institute of Design in Karlsruhe. I have just read The Art of Philosophy - Wisdom as a Practice and the book  has provoked me, in a positive way. The original title is Scheintod in Denken, which means Suspended Animastion in Thought. The title is inspired by Franz Kafka and refers to the experience og near-death (of losing oneself) and the role of mental absence and neutral observation.

Sloterdijk argues that science is not just theory, but also practice. In the same way that athelics train for their competitions in their different fields of sports, so also must an academic train in order to become a good scientist; improving knowledge and attaining wisdom.

Edmund Husserl
He goes directly to one of the founders of modern philosophical thought, Edmund Husserl, who tried to give a rebirth to philosophy by use of precise thought. He called this the phenomenological method, and wished to show that philosophy could become a strict science. Sloterdijk criticizes this effort. He states that "If life has always meant involvement, phenomenological thinking means practicing noninvolvement: nota bene, not the lack of involvement to the external activity that chronically overworked professors have no time for anyway, but in one's own life where one takes a position. In other words, noninvolvement with one's own self" (Sloterdijk 2012, p.20). How is it possible to do research and not become involved?

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Husserl invented an expression in 1913 (Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology) in order to answer this question. He called the expression for epoché, and is best illustrated as the way a customer strolls around in a store withou buying anything. We keep existence at a distance by stepping back from all forms of existential involvement. Sloterdijk argues that Husserl failed in his attempt to raise philosophy to the status of a strict science. 

Sloterdijk offers an alternative way of thinking and brings life back to Nietzsche by focusing on near-death experiences. One must lose onself in order to find onself. Or as Socrates once stated before he drank his cup of poison, "The one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death". We need to become involved in our own lives in order to understand Nietzsches argument that all cognition is local in character and that no human observer is able to go as far as really transcending his own location.  

The book seems to be a nice introduction to the philosophy of Sloterdijk. The next book from his hands that I am reading is Rage and Time - A Psychopolitical Investigation.

Kaare T. Pettersen
Sloterdijk, Peter, 2012 [2010]. The Art of Philosophy - Wisdom as Practice. New York; Columbia University Press. Translater Karen Margolis

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