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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal

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P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728
http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/

Issue number 103
9th May 2005

CONTENTS

I. 'New Open Membership of the ISFP' by Geoffrey Klempner

II. 'Considerations on Web-Philosophy' by Martin Herzog

III. The 1000th ISFP Member: Letter from Hubert Timmermans

-=-

EDITOR'S NOTE

In April, membership of the International Society for Philosophers topped the
1000 mark for the first time. Below, I have reproduced a letter from ISFP
member number 1000-090405 Hubert Timmermans.

This seems a good time to raise the question - though not for the first time
- where are we going and what is the purpose of the ISFP?

Martin Herzog, in his article on Web-Philosophy makes a powerful case for the
use of the internet in furthering philosophical knowledge. But I had always
hoped for more than this. The internet is a wonderful thing, which has placed
in our hands a tool of immense power, if only we learn how to use it to its
full potential. But that is still not enough. As the example of Socrates shows,
the greatest, most intense form philosophical dialogue is and will always remain
the face to face personal encounter.

Below is my suggestion for one way in which we could achieve this through the
ISFP, by creating a new category of member: the Open membership.

I am putting this forward as a discussion piece, not a policy document or
announcement. What happens next will depend very much on how Philosophy
Pathways readers and ISFP members respond to the proposal. If the reaction is
negative, or even luke warm, then the idea will be dropped and I will not raise
it again.

Please write to me at klempner@fastmail.net and let me know your thoughts.
I am waiting to hear from you!

Geoffrey Klempner

-=-

I. 'NEW OPEN MEMBERSHIP OF THE ISFP' BY GEOFFREY KLEMPNER

At the end of April, the 1000th member of the International Society for
Philosophers Hubert Timmermans, a lecturer in philosophy from the Netherlands,
received his ISFP life membership card.

Since April 2002 when the ISFP was formed, membership has risen at a remarkable
pace and shows no signs of abating. It staggers me to think that we are already
one of the largest philosophical societies in the world, and will soon be
rivalling the American Philosophical Association!

I am tremendously proud of the efforts made by the members and the Board of the
ISFP which have had an significant impact on the development of the Pathways to
Philosophy distance learning project. The Philosophy for Business newsletter -
an idea first mooted by ISFP Board member Rachel Browne - is just one example
of an ISFP success story. Another is the Pathways to Philosophy online
conference.

But we can do much more.

For a long time, it has been my idea that ISFP members should be able to freely
contact one another, wherever they may be in the world. One of the main reasons
for forming the ISFP was to encourage people interested in philosophy all over
the world to meet one another to enjoy friendly face to face philosophical
debate.

This has happened to a limited extent, where there have been particularly high
concentrations of ISFP members, for example, where staff and students have
joined from the same College or University. One notable case is the Philippines
where there are 28 ISFP members. Thanks to the ISFP, a philosophy group has been
set up in Nepal (see http://www.philosophy.co.nr) But these are the exceptions
rather than the general rule.

My original idea was to have a special database accessible only to ISFP
members, with full contact details of all the ISFP members. It was pointed out
to me that the fatal drawback of this suggestion was that it would be
impossible in practice to prevent the database falling into the wrong hands. An
unscrupulous marketing company - or government intelligence agency - would have
little difficulty in obtaining this sensitive data.

Another idea was to set up a special list, where ISFP members could post
requests like, 'Please contact me if you want to form a group in Ankara,
Turkey'. The objection to this is that many people who would be happy to join a
philosophy group would not necessarily want to take the initiative of leading
one.

But it occurred to me that there might be a third option - a compromise of
sorts - where ISFP members could choose whether or not to make their contact
details freely available on the internet.

This is how it would work:

     1. In future, there would be two levels of ISFP membership:
     Private members and Open members.
     
     2. There would be a publically accessible web page on the
     ISFP web site listing the name, affiliation (e.g. school,
     college), city, country and email address of every ISFP
     Open member.
     
     3. When you post your email address on the internet you can
     expect to receive some unwanted emails and spam. However,
     this threat is far less than one might suppose. My email
     address appears on more than 300 pages on the internet, but
     the amount of spam I receive is manageable. There is always
     the option of setting up a new email account for your ISFP
     contacts, e.g. with yahoo.com or hushnet.com.
     
     4. Existing ISFP members would be given the opportunity to
     opt for Open or Private membership. A new option for Open
     or Private membership would be included on the ISFP
     application form.
     
     5. Private members could change to Open membership and Open
     members could change to Private membership on demand at any
     time.
     
     6. Whether you were an Open or Private member, your membership
     of the ISFP would continue to be free, and for life.
     
- Imagine that you lived in Turkey, say, and you wanted to contact other ISFP
members. All you would need to do is look up the ISFP Open members page and see
if there are any members living in Turkey. It wouldn't matter whether you were
an Open or Private member, so long as there was at least one Open member living
in Turkey.

I think this would work very well. But I need feedback. Is this the way you
want the International Society for Philosophers to go? Or are you happy with
things as they are?

It is a big decision. If the idea is not popular, then so be it. But I think
that it is worth giving a shot. 'Nothing ventured nothing gained,' so the
saying goes. I think that in this case there would be a lot to gain.

I estimate that to make this work, we would need a minimum of 10-15 percent of
ISFP members willing to take an Open membership. That would guarantee a good
spread of countries from the 65+ countries where there are currently ISFP
members.

Would you do it? Would you willing to be an Open member?

What do you think of the idea? Good? bad? not sure?

- Let me know!

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2005
E-mail: klempner@fastmail.net

-=-

II. 'CONSIDERATIONS ON WEB-PHILOSOPHY' BY MARTIN HERZOG

Web-Philosophy as the Verification of Intuitive Knowledge and other Disperse
Information

[Original German version:
http://www.brainworker.ch/waldphilosophie/web-philosophie.htm]

1. Contemporary problems with truth-seeking

The basis of truth, be it scientific or philosophical, is formed by analysis,
synthesis, critique and dialogue. The thought out (or viewed, inspired) model
of reality is shot at with critical questions from all perspectives. Only this
will guarantee, that the model is a fitting representation of reality, that the
model holds true. The sharper the critique, the harder the defeat of critique,
the more one may rely on the quality of the solution. That makes the difference
between science and propaganda or mere opinions.

Science is only one way of finding truth. A science that already knows the
outcome of its research when submitting the research proposal, is a weak,
bureaucratic science. A science, whose main aim is to produce commercially
useful knowledge, loses its objectivity. Politics cares as little for truth, as
its job is to get power. The only truth business cares for is profit. Cunning
strategies and economic (near monopoly) power are much more promising in that
field than truth. The media, guardians of public information, are always
running after news, presented as entertainment. (A fact that has not to be
taken as negative only, because science and philosophy can be presented in an
entertaining way as well!). So there remains a gap - and a strong demand for
philosophy, that would have to fulfil many duties and would have much more
importance, than it assumes today as academic discipline.

In the 20th century, philosophy has been subdued by science, especially as its
metaphysical aspects were increasingly considered as not verifiable, which
means not rational. This rationalisation tends to forget its own strongly
limited perspective. So does the economist only ask for knowledge, that helps
him to produce and to sell; so does the politician only ask for knowledge, that
helps him to get power; so does the natural scientist only ask for knowledge of
things found in the nature; so does any scientist (especially any career-minded
scientist) only ask for knowledge that belongs to his discipline and may
increase his fame (or at least produce a new publication). That's why
scientific knowledge remains island-knowledge, precisely as personal opinions
and arguments.

The individual, looking for his place in society - a society, developing a
common future through politics - needs orientation in that complex, confusing,
often cynical, world. The more complex a system is, the higher its demands in
coordination and integration. 'The market' is one cheap (and often not
applicable) way out, as it only means: Leave the problems to those that have to
solve them, because it confronts them. This simplistic market-ideology is but
one of the dysfunctional simplifications ruling the public monologue of the
media, as are the dualistic view of 'left versus right' and 'freedom versus the
state'.

This banalising populist approach is not only favoured by power-seeking
politicians, but also by mass-media, which orient themselves at a mass-taste to
be able to sell mass-opinions to consumers. Only a small fraction of
press-articles, or media, give reasons for political opinions and actions, so
the majority of politics is not done by argumentation, but by statements, what
is not really 'reasonable'. What concerns the quality of argumentation in the
media, is often restricted to the presentation of opposing arguments in the
way: 'x says - y says', but rarely presented as chain of arguments. So
philosophy has not only to stand up against the splintered knowledge of
sciences, but just a much against indifference.

Neither economics, nor politics, nor science are in search of truth. That is
still the job of philosophers [gr. philo-sophia: love of wisdom]. If they leave
it to scientists, we will be submerged in an ocean of knowledge-crumbs.
Philosophy tries to understand the whole, is searching for meaning and wisdom,
not for progress and detailed knowledge. The foundation of philosophy is, that
nothing of importance for common orientation, should be given a chance to avoid
the philosophical quest for reason and critique.

2. Interrelated thinking is the best means to combat the violence of banality

Interrelated thinking means, not to think, to argument and to decide on the
base of selected, preconceived positions. For many people this is a disaster -
and the end of clear positions. Does not already the Bible say: 'But let your
communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh
of evil' [Mat 5:37].

Unluckily in complex situations the answer will often be: 'maybe, under
conditions a, b, c; but under condition e, f, g it might be the opposite.' The
loss of clarity is not as harmful as it might seem, if we take knowledge more
as orientation, as light house, than as paved road. Seafarers do not all drive
to the north, just because their compass is pointing to that direction. And
seafarers are not lost without the magnetic compass, as they still know how to
use the polar star, the sun, the moon, to find their way. So humans will need
different possibilities of orientation as well - and they have to know where
they are and where they want to go! The economic north pole of business and
growth is not sufficient. A compass is useless if you don't know where you are
and where you want to go. Moreover there is neither one single way to arrive at
some desired point, nor one single way to find out how to go there. In between
the yea and nay, in between black and white, in between good and evil, there
are much larger fields than those extreme poles themselves indicate.

That sounds a bit relativistic, yes, but let's take an example covering the
field politics, economy, society and the individual: To care for one's own
business, to take responsibility for one's action, for one's family, sounds
good. Economy, society, state and religion would mostly agree with that. And
still this set makes instantly clear, that in spite of this clear orientation,
there are many decisions to be taken every day: What is more important for me?
My family or my company, my career, my job? If we look at state and society the
problems get worse. Here families and companies are just two of many elements
that are conditioning each other and depend on each other. Nevertheless
business traditionally opposes the state, often even society, when those demand
more respect for themselves or for nature. It's a constant fight of differing
interests for dominance. And the problem is, that if one element wins the
fight, the system will break down.

In this game not one of the participants can claim dominance or exclusiveness.
History presents us with many examples, how cruel the exclusive dominance of
politics (e.g. in communism), of economy (e.g. in the Manchester-type
liberalism), of society (e.g. in each narrow-minded traditional small-village
society) and individuals (each dictatorship, be it political or economic). And
it's the same problem the free market has: Everyone tries to beat the
competitors. The one that succeeds overtakes the losing firm or its share in
the market and is thus grows - and the end result is, that the free market,
eaten up by global giants, disappears. (See
http://www.diskussionsforen.ch/WAP/economyofscale.htm 'Economy of scale'.)

3. Web-philosophy is moreover a philosophy of intuitive thinking

Positivism dropped all search for Being, its primary reason and ultimate
purpose, in favour of explaining structures, relations and processes.
Philosophical speculation and religious gnosis gave way to the discovery of
natural laws. The dominance of science led to a dominance of abstract rational
thinking. But rational thinking is not the only way of thinking and not the
only way of acquiring truth. Precisely because modern science limits itself to
narrow academic fields, studied with a restricted methodology (sc. Feyerabend),
enormous amounts of knowledge get lost. Especially intuitive knowledge, favoured
by romanticism and gnosis, which leaves a place for emotions and spiritual
longing (as Plato's idealism). Also lost is the knowledge of the unity of
mankind and God, common sense and traditions.

Intuition solves many problems by itself, if given time and relaxed working
conditions (as meditation). Intuition is not as mystical as one might imagine,
as it creates new thoughts out of existing pieces - without a predetermined,
most often without predictable, outcome and result. Depending on the pieces of
knowledge available in the brain, conscious as well as unconscious knowledge,
the results may look quite different and change suddenly. Intuitive knowledge,
well probably all knowledge, is a bit 'jumpy', if fed with new information.

Intuitive knowledge seems to be located on the right side of the brain and is
often associated with the female way of thinking, opposed, or better
complementary, to the male way of thinking, the rational left brain thinking.
That explains, why men often have difficulties in understanding women (and why
women often have difficulties in understanding each other and creating a common
platform). Intuitive knowledge works a bit like neuronal networks, but with much
larger potentials of self-construction (autopoiesis).

Another interesting form of thinking is 'thinking with the stomach'. Our
nerve-cells store unconscious memories of pain, wellbeing, success, failure,
joy and pain. The thinking out of the belly is most often overestimated,
especially by populist political leaders, because each belly has only its own
and so very limited experience, an experience strongly influenced by what one
has eaten or drunk.

Web-philosophy has a large advantage over science and logic: The jumpy,
unsystematic and unrelated ideas, not grown out of logical relations or
disciplinary perspectives, can be linked, woven into a whole - and checked for
consistency!

Contradictions and errors will be visible and lead to a constant rephrasing,
reshaping and refocussing of the bits and pieces, that are mostly results of
descriptions made out of certain perspectives.

Web-philosophy can be tested for truth and logical reliability just as well as
science and philosophy. For that purpose not only the links, the networks, are
important, but also the pieces of thought that form the basis of the intuitive
solutions have to be determined. As intuition is largely an unconscious
process, the determination of the decisive pieces of knowledge comes close to a
kind of psycho-analysis. The dependency of intuition on knowledge present in the
brain shows as well its limits: An empty head will only create empty thoughts,
no matter how intelligent (fast thinking) he may be.

4. Web-Philosophy: A grid needs poles to fix it

Now, let me give you an example to illustrate why I'm using this rather
pleonastic term 'web-philosophy'. Pleonastic it is, because philosophy always
tries to understand the whole - with its interconnections. Philosophical
thinking is (almost) always the networking of thoughts that are born out of
different perspectives. So why should I create that pleonasm? The answer is:
Because philosophy does not seem to do its job (or better: philosophers their
job). The increasingly anomic state of our societies is used by polemic and
populist politicians for their purposes, but does not seem to incite
philosophers to create new orientations.

Let's have a look at the traditional virtues, one of the strongest fields of
ethical orientation:

  prudence - the right measure between licentiousness and apathy
  justice - the right measure between doing wrong and suffering wrong
  courage - the right measure between recklessness and cowardice
  generosity - the right measure between pettiness and extravagance
  gentleness - the right measure between irascibility and inability to feel
  justified anger

The virtues, seen as right measure, make it immediately clear why there is most
often no clear answer to complex questions and no simple way out of chaos and
insecurity. Life always demands decisions between extremes. Each 'philosophy'
that emphasises too much one-sided aspects, be it the nation, God,
intelligence, material values etc. is not philosophy but mere PR, sectarianism,
fundamentalism. The philosopher's job is not to beat the PR drum for one of the
extremes, but to find the right way between the extremes. Wisdom is the art of
the right measure - an art that needs life long learning - seldom from books,
most often from the life itself (and that's exactly the reason, why one surely
gets old before wise, but not always wiser with increasing age.)

The 'compass' of virtues shows us, that there is no either-or, no yea or nay,
no clear good and evil, but only hints where the right way might be and what
the right decision might look like. The free human being may and must decide,
which road he or she wants to take. So people should not be asked, to which
party they belong, which extremes they adhere to, but rather, in between which
poles their grid of thinking is hanging and how large it is. The larger the
grid, the more poles it is fixed to, the freer is the decision searcher.

Now, if you keep this image in your head, the image of a thinking (and
decision) grid, hung up between juxtaposed poles, then you understand, what I
mean with web-philosophy. The web, hypertext in general, allows us, to span and
spin incredible grids of knowledge - and to subject them to testing at the same
time. Hypertext-presentations allow us to see things from different
perspectives and to create multidimensional presentations. Most people and
institutions still stick to one-dimensional presentations, limiting themselves
to their own business (what is not an utterly bad thing to do). Philosophers
might profit from that, and interrelate those one-dimensional presentations.
This has two positive effects:

     1. The interrelation allows us to check, under which
     perspective, assumptions, context a theory, an opinion, a
     statement, is valid.
     
     2. Embedding philosophical thinking in contemporary real
     world problems gives philosophy a new chance to reassume
     its duty and to give wisdom a chance to develop.
     
Precisely because neither science nor politics nor economics really care for
truth, not to speak of wisdom, this duty stays with the philosophers. More
truthful approaches would be most important in those fields that concern social
development, as in politics.

I see the (ideal) state as an organised forum of citizens. This forum has to
deal with ever-increasing complexity, which makes more and dialogues necessary.
As this is a kind of mediation and mostly bound to values, it's not really the
business of the sciences (if we accept Max Weber's separation of science from
valuing and theory from practice), but the job of philosophy.

5. The current confusion between epistemical, poietic and practical knowledge -
and some ideas of sociologists, to re-philosophize their science

     Science has not only the duty, to formulate the ideals of
     justice, it has to describe as well the roads leading to
     their realisation.
     
     Leon Walras, quantitative economist (1834-1910)
     
Aristotle's' systematic of philosophy split knowledge in mainly three
categories:

  Logic/ analysis: Mathematics, physics, metaphysics, theoretical philosophy
  (cognition)
  Practice: Ethics, politics, economics, education (action)
  Poiesis: Technique, aesthetics, rhetoric (modelling, forming, executing,
  producing)

The contemporary lead-science is economics. Scientific research that promises
economic growth is good research. Unluckily Aristotle's classification has been
totally forgotten. Otherwise economics could never have assumed any authority as
'science'. And this authority is dangerous, as it claims truth in fields, namely
the future and the aims of social development, where there is no truth to be
found, especially no scientific truth. But the confusion between practice and
epistemic science breeds more problems. If science is subject to 'usability' -
saleability, profitability - truth comes definitely second. We can easily
observe that in most new fields of science, especially genetics and
nanotechnology, where any opposition against the use of the ideas and possible
products are rejected as restraints to the freedom of science, while in reality
our concern is to restrain commercial spread and its risks. So the primary
objective of science, to find true descriptions, relations and, where possible,
predictability, is more and more overruled by economic interests.

While technicians may get away with the excuse, that they produce what they are
asked to produce, this rather foul excuse can't apply for 'sciences' that
produce guidance (orientation) for human action. Politics, ethics, economics
and education are eminently practical activities with real effects in the real
world. They have to stay submitted to the free decision, acceptance or
rejection, of their subjects.

An interesting science here is sociology, that tries to form a counter-science
to economics, assuming for sociology the position philosophy once occupied:

     Sociology is the queen of the sciences.
     Unlike other sciences which analyse one narrow segment
     of life, sociology integrates all knowledge about humanity.
     
     Steven Seidman: Contested Knowledge. Social Theory Today.
     Blackwell Publ. Malden, Oxford, Victoria. 1994, 98, 2004
     (sec. ed.) [p 18:]
     
Charles Wright Mills (1916-62: The power elite, White collar: The American
Middle Class) saw sociology as engaged public discourse. Theories were of minor
importance for him and serve just as concepts, how to do empirical social
analysis. Mills wanted to create a public sociology.

Robert Bellah (1927-) tried to change sociology back into public philosophy.
Against the scientistic trend, Bella stuck to the conviction, that sociology is
not only value oriented, but has to promote certain values. While Marx, Weber,
Durkheim had written for the educated citizens, Bellah saw sociology as part of
the ongoing discussion about societies common interests such as freedom,
justice, poverty, war and community.

Antony Giddens (1938-) was also of the opinion, that sociology should not only
explain the nature of the social world, but should help as well to shape it.
Giddens strengthened the reflexivity of our society. While in the pre-modern
cultures traditions controlled our daily behaviour, based on best practice,
knowledge is in a perpetual movement in our post-modern society. Trends change
the knowledge, considered as important, almost faster than books on trends are
written.

Zygmunt Bauman (1925-) sees the modern spirit as reckless and relentless drive
to extinguish everything that is chaotic, ambivalent, different and insecure.
The heart of modernity is this unscrupulous drive to organize, to classify and
to control. Post modernity stands for decentralized social order, that, as an
ideal, should create institutional spaces for an ongoing dialogue, in which
competition and negotiations on the endemic socio-political conflicts should be
possible. For Bauman the character of sociology is narrowly connected to the
role of the intellectual. While intellectuals lost their social authority in
its legislative role, they now assume a role as interpreters. Their aim is now
less to dictate standards and norms, than to facilitate communication between
traditions and society.

The new millennium presents lots of complex problems to be solved by
knowledge-workers and philosophers - but it also presents us a useful tool: the
web.

The most common reason for social decline is - no, not zero growth or
recession, but anomie, the lack of reliable orientation, or prevailing wrong
orientation. So any kind of fundamentalism, populism, banalising polemics, in
short, any terror of stupidity, has to be refuted. This duty can't be overtaken
by politicians or the economy, as both use such methods extensively to get what
the want.

This fight against decay of orientation and secure knowledge is not only needed
since post-modernity, but was fought already by Plato, as the fight against the
death of reason (misology). Reason has to fight, where people may have
different opinions, where decisions between alternatives have to be taken.
Reason has a strong relation to action, but tries nevertheless, as philosophy,
to keep some distance, not to be submitted by force of things (Sachzwang).

To be able to develop new orientations in the Babylonian confusion of the
post-modern era, we need a more intense and better working netting of the
partial systems. As sciences themselves are partial sub-systems, I guess it
would be a new duty for philosophy, to replace the honour and budget-oriented
monologue of disciplinary scientific tribes by a philosophical, truth-seeking,
dialogue.

As Seidman wrote [p. 282-83:]: 'Most problems and debates can't be assigned to
single disciplines, but form clusters.' Discussions on globalization or the
civil society do not take place in sociological newspapers, but under titles
as: Public culture, social text, theory, culture, society, constellation.
Today, in most clustered debates theorists must have at least some familiarity
with classical sociology, neo-Marxism, identity-theories such as feminism and
queer-theory, post structuralism, critical theory, varieties of
psychoanalytical theory, and often postcolonial theory and critical race theory.

That's said for the field of sociology. To be able to hold a discourse on
social development, integrating not only social sciences, but everything
relevant for development, we probably have to make a step backward in order to
advance faster, and revive the philosophical art of rhetoric, especially topics
and argumentation, with the objective to:

  enhance critical thinking

- The sciences have to learn again, that the right answer can only emerge, if
the right questions are asked.

  reintegrate speculative thinking, especially heuristics

- Speculari (Lat.) means: to look at something from far away. Speculative
thinking, something unthinkable for scientists, is needed, if you want to deal
with ideals (platonic or other) and utopiae. Without such speculative
fore-sights its not possible, to create political or social development plans
for the future, as any future is always (more or less) speculative.

  reintegrate values in argumentation and decision processes

- Values are decisive in that field, but disintegrated from scientific research.

  interrelate cluttered knowledge and preserve contexts [the foundation of
  web-philosophy]

- Each scientific discipline should in fact have its philosophers, mediating
between related fields that might be quite far from each other, what concerns
academic structures, especially what concerns the split between humanities and
natural sciences. The multidimensionality of the web allows us to group themes,
to form clusters. Such a way presentation may tackle large as well as deep
contents. The arrangement of knowledge in clusters allows access from different
perspectives, which do not get lost in a tangled mix, thanks to the subportals
in the center of the clusters.

  intensify and clarify dialogue with knowledge users and in general with the
  population

- Scientists (and philosophers) should defend their thesis publicly, not the
commercial use of their inventions.

There should be a philosophy, and philosophers, that tackle real world problems
and real time problems.

That would give philosophy a real push, as few people are interested in
academic discussions on reinterpretation of old texts.

(c) Martin Herzog 2005

E-mail: hewww@brainworker.ch

Martin Herzog
Dipl. Ing. ETH
Rheinfelden
Switzerland

-=-

III. THE 1000TH ISFP MEMBER: LETTER FROM HUBERT TIMMERMANS

Date: Sat, 07 May 2005 12:24:39 +0200
To: klempner@fastmail.net
From: Bert Timmermans
Subject: ISFP

Dear Dr. Klempner,

I am happy with my membership card of the ISFP. It arrived last Saturday when
we were just about to go on holiday, which means that I couldn't reply earlier
to your kind letter. It is a funny coincidence to be the 1000th member and l
must say that I like it very much. You asked me to write something about myself
and here it comes.

I am working as a lecturer in 'Intercultural Philosophy' at the University of
Maastricht Centre for European Studies.

The ICPh course as I teach it tries to introduce undergraduate students (first
and second years) to the comparison (if possible) of the 3 (only 3?) important
intellectual/ philosophical mindsets of the world: the Western (including the
Islamic), the Indian (Hindu and Buddhism) and the Chinese ones.

During the course the students are provided with a (partly historical)
introduction into the 'main' philosophical world traditions. They are also
confronted with concepts (from metaphysics, ethics, philosophical anthropology,
aesthetics, philosophy of language etc) that do come from these traditions and
that invite them to analyse and evaluate their own mostly Western views. As
such these concepts ask the students, on the basis of models that both come
from Philosophy and from the Theory of Communication field, to compare them, if
possible, with their Eastern counterparts. As such the main question is: is
(any) communication between these philosophical traditions possible and if it
is, how then should it be done?

I really enjoy doing this lecturing (it teaches me as much as it teaches the
students: especially the rather distressing insight that my own university
education was a very limited Western one!) and that is why I was so happily
surprised when I learned about the existence of the ISFP! It would be wonderful
if philosophers, and other genuinely interested people with 'the philosophical
mind' from the different (intellectual?) world traditions would be enabled to
communicate and debate with one another about topics that we would call
'philosophical' (Western view: philosophical?) and if they would be able to
exchange ideas in a free and unlimited way. (Which doesn't mean that I am
interested in pseudo mysticism and religion and things like these but only in
what the different traditions would judge to be real 'philosophy'!)

The conference topics are very interesting (I would like to join 'Philosophy-a
way of life?') but I also hope that in a future time there will be a conference
on 'language', because that is what I am mostly interested in: I am very
interested in discussing the way in which the different cultures shape their
views as to the 'philosophical' role that language plays in their mindsets and,
again, to exchange ideas as to this. Well, this is something about myself and
about the reason why I joined the ISFP. I really do think that your initiative
is a very sympathetic and important one and I hope that, in a modest way, I
could contribute to its success.

With kind regards,

Hubert Timmermans

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