Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Nietzsche as Formative Thinker

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Nietzsche as Formative Thinker

Article excerpt

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According to a widely received view philosophy is a discipline exploring philosophical problems by philosophical methods. Philosophers generate theories or rational accounts justified by arguments. This account occludes the differences between the philosophical architecture a philosopher adopts, their doctrines and their theories. It also assumes without argument a monist thetic. Pluralist metaphilosophy, in contrast, emphasises conflicts between methods and goals and between arguments and conclusions. It asserts that theoretical, practical and formative philosophy are different and may conflict, and that no philosophy can avoid adopting a thetical position towards the world. Context determines what philosophy is for, and the contradictory kinds of philosophy that are needed.

Contemporary metaphilosophy recognises that several types of philosophy are valuable, and that the strong case which may be made for theoretical philosophy may itself imply that not all philosophy needs to be theoretical. (1) Acknowledging the constitutive role of intellectual styles and cultural symbolisation does not preclude a quest for truth. Rather it imposes an obligation on us to choose intellectual styles and cultural symbolizations, having regard to their possible effects. It follows that different philosophical frameworks deserve study in the historically specific situations in which they are embodied and deployed under specific arrays of law, institutions, practices, discourses and knowledges. Contemporary metaphilosophy also allows for the possibility that the relationships between different types of philosophy may at times be aporetic. Aporetic approaches to philosophy emphasise what cannot be done, the irreducible conflicts between human needs, desires, interests, values and purposes, and the importance of keeping separate and distinct matters which are essentially different in kind. This implies that gaps and barriers are basic to our experience of the world, and that philosophers characteristically encounter difficulties or antinomies that are irresolvable.

The version of methodological morality which follows implies that it is important to suspect any attempt to sweep such difficulties aside by a comprehensive methodologism or a quest for a single philosophical system. Instead, the art is to move around and between the antinomies, assaying a few, and clearly signposting others without assuming that human beings are unaffected by choices that change the worlds in which we manifest. Aporetic approaches to philosophical organisation imply that doing well in one area of philosophical inquiry may preclude success in another, that developing a good ontology may not go with a good ethics, just as a good epistemology may not go with a good aesthetics. Consistent with this, not all philosophical problems can be resolved by theoretical philosophy, and some philosophy should be practical. Plato arguably exemplified an approach to philosophy of this kind when he claimed that there could be no one unified view of what there is, and that the good must be experienced and cannot be discovered by technical knowing. Such philosophy, however, will need to take account of fields of institutions and diversities of disciplines and transdisciplines allied to them.

In the context of a pluralist metaphilosophy (2) of this sort a case can be made for philosophy which seeks to facilitate human formation. Various types of formative philosophy can be found in Indian, Iranian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean philosophy (Dilworth 1989). In the West, the Greeks were familiar with suggestions that the philosopher lives the life after death while still alive, and with references to the need for philosophers to undergo purification before they perceived the eide or participated the Logos (Hadot 1995). 3 Hadot emphasises for the ancient Greeks philosophy was a way of life involved spiritual experiences and an art of living involving principles or dogmas (theorema). …

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