The Philosophical Life

The title of this section is inspired by the series of workshops held at St Andrews University in 2016 – 17. In 2015  I was invited to present in the Second of these workshops/seminars and it made me think, perhaps for the first time properly, about the questions being addressed by the series:

“Has philosophy turned itself into a profession like any other, with little or no bearing on one’s family life, one’s friendships, one’s social and political allegiances, and so on? Or is there still some truth to the ancient idea that philosophy is a way of living that manifests itself in every significant choice that one makes? Is there a middle-way between these extremes?”

In particular we, the speakers, were asked to reflect upon our own lives in order to address the questions.

The second phenomena that has led me to begin writing in this way is:

over the last 4 years or so I have found myself attempting to explain several different things to younger folk on facebook. For example what I learned from studying Hitler and Nazi Germany when I was 16. I spent a year in intensive study at what was , I suppose, a formative age and I never forgot what I learned. More about this later. A second example is about bullying: its true nature and how to deal with it. Again informed by my own experience of growing up as a red head and having to fight, physically as a child and verbally as a teenager, to defend myself. But facebook is not a satisfactory place to communicate any depth or importance of understanding.

The third event that has pushed me into writing is my recent discovery of Dr. Jordan B Peterson’s videos on youtube. Now having watched a variety of these videos, beginning with a short clip that I found almost inspirational (see below), I see a lot of commonality between our background knowledge of , e.g. Nazi Germany, general philosophical and psychological ideas, and perhaps most importantly a certain kind of understanding of Freedom and the importance of the individual.

So here is the JP video that got me started:

TELL THE TRUTH

 

I have been advocating for Free Speech all over social media and everywhere possible for years. See the post here .  But one thing that fascinated me about this little clip was Dr. Peterson’s plea that telling the truth was a psychological good , not just an ethical requirement.

Now my family and colleagues know that I do not hold Psychology in very high regard – not just because I am a Philosopher, but as a result of studying Psychology (an MSC in Applied Psychology) and finding out what incredibly important philosophical assumptions were built into the statistics that Psychologists use – so much so that the hypotheses they were purporting to test were inbuilt into their research designs and were almost bound to be verified [because they were assumed in the statistical tools].

But I also criticised Philosophers for ignoring or mis-categorising empirical questions, especially about thinking. And so before embarking upon a PhD in the Philosophy of Mind, I thought I ought to learn some Psychology from the inside as it were.

On a tangental note I did my undergraduate Philosophy dissertation on Freud. (I was a great admirer of Popper’s ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’)  And I wanted to know more about Freud. So I read and studied every single book and paper Freud wrote – I was fortunate that my university had a copyright library, and to be honest I had hardly been inside it for 3 years before I began my research in my Senior Sophister year. I was stunned to discover when I went to the Applied Psychology Dept. that not a single one of the lecturers or post grads had studied Freud. And Freud was not taught in Psychology.

I did my Applied Psychology research, in the end, with the Psychologists (including 3 Professors) as my subjects. But I had to find new statistical analysis tools to use , as the available ones assumed what I was trying to find out. More about the Psychological research I undertook later in this series.

So it is rare for me to admire a Psychologist. However Dr. Peterson is different. And I will be posting videos of his talks and lectures here, partly just because they are great, but also as conversation starters.

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