Philosophy How?

By Zhang, Peter | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Philosophy How?


Zhang, Peter, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


An amateur (technically, "playful") philosopher from Columbia University is about to interview for a philosophy position at a secondary school and asks me what else I could tell him about philosophy. I have thought up the following points for myself, for him, and for anybody who is interested in overhearing this response. I offer them here in the Stoic spirit of "correspondence as circle of subjectivation/veridiction," as Michel Foucault teaches.

Think now in the opposite direction. How to strip down ideas but make them enticing. Three or four would be as many as people are ready to handle or remember you by. What anecdotes of life (proprietary examples) can you use to bring to life a philosophical idea? Do you have idiosyncratic ones? Do you have three? Be punchy and consumable. Think bestseller without being cheap.

Read your interviewers on the spot. Ask them good questions. Be gentle with your listeners. We tend to err on the side of being brutally knowledgeable, or knowledgeable brutes. But there is a world of difference between knowledge and understanding, or wisdom. The position expects you to teach the love of wisdom. How else can this love be taught if not by contagion? There are different species of wisdom, too. Remember that, for Baruch Spinoza, intellect is inferior to intuition, and good ideas are, after all, adequate ideas--ones that help us encompass situations. A dramatist, by the way, would say that drama is a good idea because it is a strategy contrived to encompass situations. …

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