Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Philosophy as domain of questions and reflections (Athens 2007)

One source for philosophers has been wonder. This includes the existence of the earth within an universe filled with stars in an infinite space. By children it is called curiosity, or the quest to know more or what is around the corner. But there is another source of knowledge: human pain. The latter comes with love not fulfilled as we wanted to but is in need to be worked through in order to leave traumas and self inflicted wounds behind.

A philosophical dimension is based on the ability to ask good questions, and as a consequence of this introspection in an open sense the making of a 'logic of questions'. Here different schools of thought have tried since Socrates different approaches than the one called question and answer in a dialog. Of interest is what Carlos Penco in Genoa said about an important strive in all these schools from the Analytical to the Intuitive ones and not leaving out the Frankfurt School as described by Martin Jay as 'hotel at the edge of the abyss', namely to free the mind from any coercive logic. This would mean replacing the category of 'necessity' with 'freedom' in both body and mind while not everything is possible since creativity is learning to set the constraints in such a way that thinking becomes clearer, a source of energy and once love exists, inspirational. That makes itself evident once practical clarity is brought about by the way these questions are approached, taken up by others and reformulated to become ideas for further going actions.

Philosophy can also be a strive to be consistent, honest within oneself, so as to be able to articulate clearly thought through ideas before undertaking actions. This is missing especially in politics and yet political philosophy has a way of giving advise not out of the blue but based on independent knowledge which cannot be bought. Societies need such independent source of knowledge for otherwise there is no orientation.

Since Kant responded already in his time about the saying 'all good in theory but what about in practice?', ideas translated into actions is not enough. For it is important to continue reflecting the impacts and consequences of our actions. This means avoiding as well the dilemma as Shakespeare put it, when he asked: 'should we suit the actions to the words or the words to actions?' Self critical reflections are needed if our actions are to be a part of the fulfillment of life and therefore do not go against the very concept of life. At the same time, 'the inner reflections of the social being', otherwise the imagination by which we can foresee consequences of our actions, is a way to formulate decision making processes before it is too late. Politics and the debates in Parliament meant to deliberate the impact of future laws upon society require such intersubjectivity (Popper) so as to be able to influence the other(s) before undertaking any concrete action and before it is too late. Taking into consideration the opinions of others is therefore a matter of being open minded when getting involved in politics. Here a lot can be done to uphold democratic life as linked to the existence of the European Parliament and the European debate as much as the United Nations provides a forum for global governance.

Most human questions can only be answered if lived and once experienced, they can be formulated differently.

Unfortunately it is not common to understand philosophy as being practical but then philosophers from Plato to Adorno argued that 'practical wisdom' cannot be taught. Already Aristoteles stressed that we need practical judgments to know the consequences of our actions. He relied on friends willing to tell one the truth - the consequences of one's actions - prior to undertaking them so as to stay on course and to act in time.

Given the existence of different schools of thought over time, the intention here is to do justice to dialogues in search of knowledge. There is a difference between being truthful and in posing consciously the question but what are the truths? Are they based on what we do not know, know very little and what should be respected as the unknown? Indeed, there is a fear of the unknown although this should be conscious as not something frightening us but adding to our sense of life and in which world we live in.

Inquiry into knowledge can be a strong asset provided this is done in freedom of expression with doubt not being suppressed. Descartes said "I doubt, therefore I am" and he linked the finding of a personal identity to an economy of rules by which this 'I' connects to others, to society. Such economy of rules has not been understood by our tendency towards over bureaucratization in almost all facits of life.

According to Wittgenstein, philosophy is a special way to remember. Without 'work with memory' we can never attain the depth of knowledge in need of when attempting to come to terms with the complexity of life itself. That does not exclude simple communication as attempted by Wittgenstein but philosophical problems cannot be reduced to mere linguistic formulations. There is after all the articulation of the human being using questions as method to advance in knowledge and in action. It is the 'memory path' taken by us that should be remembered and which we can do according to Sigmund Freud by stepping out of the system and into the feelings as they come up. This would help us avoid also shaping our identity only within the system of negation and negativity ('Die Verneinung').

Differentiated knowledge based on lived through experiences (le vecu - Jean Paul Sartre) is after all working with memories, including those of the future. It includes such ethical concerns as written down by Th. W. Adorno in 'minima moralia' and would not end with the question by an old woman put to a young Ph.D. student of Archaeology, "but what use does it have this knowledge if you know how to date the finding of one vase when it does not help me to cure my arthritis."

Nor does philosophy overlook literature, for if we 'hurry-worry, it does not bring about good work', so the slogan in George Crane's book 'Bones of the Master'.

Clearly philosophy is about making things become practical while being reflective as to what is conduicive to mankind. Through philosophy we seek to overcome our limited human self-consciousness in becoming knowledgable as to what gives us orientation. Some use for that the word 'culture'.

As such philosophy is itself a self critical acknowledgement of knowing what we are doing while giving recognition as to what is great in others since that can be useful to still other people. By letting others know what we learn from them, we give already recognition as expression of political philosophy since then we are maturing within our very concept of life based on trust, responsibility and freedom of emotions, thoughts and doubt.


Hatto Fischer

Athens 19.2.2007

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