Journeyism 19

Transforming the Philosophical Tradition (Part 2)

So what should philosophy be in the future? …communit[ies] of collaborators making progress….[with] a comprehensive framework…the ancient goal of philosophy.”1What Is The Present Nature, And The Future, Of Philosophy? Response to the question submitted by John Talley, Rutherfordton, NC. https://philosophynow.org/issues/98/What_Is_The_Present_Nature_And_The_Future_Of_Philosophy. Retrieved online: 04/06/2018.  Those who have studied philosophy at some point might recall Plato’s ideal for an academy was largely based on its worthwhile search for practical, comprehensive solutions to problems in the daily life of Athenians. It was a central aim not only in his Dialogues, but also of the ancient philosophic tradition. Unfortunately, the Aristotelian school initiated a trend that dominates curricula today, the effect of which has isolated the academy from directly enriching the pulse of life on the street. The various fields of inquiry became fragmented and isolated in part because a false hierarchy of subjects was imposed that not only distorted, but also placed a disproportionate burden on, the function of “mathematical sciences”.  “So Sir David Ross remarked of Aristotle: ‘Throughout the whole of his works we find him taking the view that all other sciences than the mathematical have the name of science only by courtesy, since they are occupied with matters in which contingency play a part.’” Quote is taken from Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 1972, 3. Please see footnotes 3 and 4 below.

All along we have been inquiring into the academy’s failure to get our global minding in order.2Perhaps you will recall this theme from our initial observation in Journeyism 5. “So far in our series, we have drawn attention, in a number of ways, to the current ineffectiveness of established “academic disciplines”. We have invited you to slowly, patiently and empirically shift your attention to the process that occurs in the production of any kind of intellectual labour. Expanded discussion of the issue will take place in Journeyism 22: “Redefining Academic Discipline (Part 1)”. Hints from the quotation above neatly capture the spirit behind our anticipated ordering of intellectual labour. Might these sentiments calling for “collaboration” and “progress,” with a “comprehensive framework” be shared by you and others in the academic community? Is it not becoming increasingly evident that the academy has lost its way3The academy has been “[l]ost in some no man’s land between the world of theory and the world of common sense,” while marginalizing most fields of intellectual labour to the “merely academic,” and ultimately, the fate of most graduates to serve a broken economy. and the current operation of conventional “academic disciplines,” originated centuries ago by the philosophical tradition, is simply not up to the job?4This relates to our effort to redefine “academic discipline,” the neglect of which, as we previously noted, is because raising questions about process or method and in its application has been strangely unpopular in philosophy.

We began our series focused on individual performance with respect to intellectual labour and exposed a fundamental disorientation in reflection on human knowing and decision-making rooted in the philosophical tradition. The Dynamics of Knowing and Doing were brought to light and made accessible by our empirical shift to process, namely empirical method.5Once again we must emphasize that our illustrations and exercises have been drawn from elementary, descriptive illustrations and examples accessible to common sense. As far as it goes, these instances, while precise, empirically verifiable, and sufficient to our purpose, are incomplete. To appreciate the full control of data required for sensible and human meanings we will need to draw on further elementary illustrations and examples from the world of theory. In our upcoming series on economics, the elementary examples there will serve to help you distinguish between descriptive (commonsense) reflection and explanatory (theoretical) reflection on data.

Now we conclude our elementary series by focusing on how empirical method will transform established routines in the world’s academic communities from its present state of isolation and inertia to an efficient and dynamic organism of collaborative creativity for a “positive anthropocene.”6The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropocene#In_culture (Retrieved 03/07/18) The expression, “positive anthropocene” denotes a reversal of the currently dominant “negative anthropocene” and its harmful impact on human life and the world. In other words, the academy of the future will be an effective cultural hub for sustainable progress in human living.

Can we climb from the data we observe in fields of inquiry by shifting the emphasis to how things are done now and could be done in future? That is the fundamental aim of empirical method that we introduced in Journeyism 3 and Journeyism 4. Once again, we forge ahead for further context to lend plausibility to what lies ahead, by presenting snippets from the third and fourth years in our sample university syllabus shown below. It is followed by a list of eight items that highlight key expressions in bold and italics. We will have more to say about this list of expressions in Journeyism 20.

Year Three

In the third year, students learn about how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions. Fieldwork questions, methods and practices are the principal focus of the core course.

Year Four

…As a discipline focused on society and culture, anthropology aims to make sense of wide ranging social processes and practices to evaluate shifting relations between individuals and society. Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations.

In this course, we examine how different schools of thought in anthropology, at different historical and political junctures, have forwarded different theories of social and cultural life. …Our aim is to examine the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates. This course is organized such that by the end of the year you will understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated. In addition to this, we will also examine the current debates that have critically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation. In the fall semester we examine historically significant texts that have contributed to the foundation of anthropological theory: how modern anthropologies of the twentieth century were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned. In the winter semester we examine a range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology, such as contemporary theoretical productions and the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today. How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change? How is this possible today within the contexts of globalization, new forms of public culture and new ways of conceptualizing life itself?

Exercise

Prior to proceeding to Journeyism 20, your task (should you choose to accept it) will be to search your own syllabus for data and highlight patterns that either use the terms (in bold) or language that approximates the expressions (in italics) in the list below and itemize them in the same way you see below.

  1. Research: how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions”
  2. Interpretation: Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations”
  3. History: how modern anthropologies…were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned.”
  4. Debates: the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates…examine the current debates that have critically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation.
  5. Foundation: the foundation of anthropological theory”
  6. Principles: range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology” How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change?
  7. Further Possibilities: the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today.”
  8. Communication of ‘high points’: “understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated.”

References   [ + ]

Leave a Comment