希尔贝克:哲学教育:何为,为何,如何——和为谁?

——以此祝贺《时代之思》一书的中译本出版
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进入专题: 哲学  

希尔贝克  

1991年春,我首次访问华东师大。那时我认识童世骏已有两年。1991年我有幸愉快见到了华东师大的同事和学生,还见到了冯契教授。那以后我来过华东师大多次,也有一些来自上海的学者在卑尔根与我和我的同事见面。这十六年中,发生了许多变化,不只是上海和华东师大的变化。借此,我想对在此期间发展起来的合作和友谊表达我诚挚的感谢,也对我亲眼目睹的中国和华东师范所取得的巨大成绩表示敬意。

没有什么比向年轻人教授哲学的任务那样带来回报和提升——年轻人在某个领域或学科中找到出路前,他们的头脑还保持开放和富有好奇心。如果你问我,我说教授哲学是一项有意义和激动人心的工作——同时也包含着巨大责任。我们对年轻人事实上做了什么呢?

我们希望做得最好。人们说:“年轻人需要的唯有爱”,这句话即便不十分正确,也一定程度为真。确实,教师必须喜爱他所谈论的东西,也必须喜爱所交谈的对象。若非如此,哲学就不起作用。因此教师必须确切知道他所谈论的东西,知道如何对他人(以及和他人一起)进行谈论。热爱智慧,如古希腊语——字义是“爱智”(“philo-sophia”)——这是哲学的要义,也是今天我们讲座的要义。

因此,作为本次讲座的主题,哲学教育,与以下问题相关:何为,为何,如何——以及为谁?先从为谁的问题开始:我今天关注的是哲学通识教育,是针对那些学生,他们既不打算成为特定领域的专业哲学家,也不抱有个人特定的哲学兴趣——即我把注意力放在作为一般教化和通识教育的哲学上。

中国有悠久的影响深远的哲学传统,我想这个主题对中国的教师教育精英体制而言有某种特定含义,如华东师大校园中央的石碑上就刻着警醒注目的校训:“求实创造,为人师表。”

但本次讲座我主要涉及的是西方哲学的开端。此外,我将把注意力放在现代大众体制框架中具有考试和学位的教育;这意味着我不去关注一些特定的人际关系,这些关系或许是更深入地传播德性和智慧所需的。

针对现代大学生的哲学通识教育问题是:教育的重点是什么?主题是什么?教学方式是什么?我不从教学法的问题着手,而把这个问题(“如何”)看成是关于针对这些学生哲学通识教育的主题应该是什么和为什么的问题。

我也不从孤立的主题,尽管我们教育那些打算成为职业哲学家的学生时或许这么做。

在此,讨论的是对年轻人的通识教育,为何,何为和如何这三个问题是相互联系的。

对这些问题我们应该采取什么进路呢?一种回答如下:今天的年轻人生活在现代社会,现代社会意味着:知识型和分化的社会,具有不同的文化,宗教和世界观。这一情景带来一些与哲学有关的问题:

1)存在许多类型的知识,如与日常实践和个人经验相关的知识;但现代社会许多重要的知识类型都建立在科学研究和学术研究的基础上。但是,诸科学和人文科学分化为不同的学科和子学科,每个学科都借助自己的概念和方法思考,“筛选”它们的知识领域。简言之,科学学科和学术学科是视角主义的。因此,有必要不断反思的是,哪些学科与其它学科及我们生活世界的经验相关,哪些没有。

进而,科学研究和学术研究的结果原则上是可错的,因此我们必须认识到各种视角主义的知识也是不确定的。最后我们对什么算好的或差的科学研究或学术研究进行持续争论,并从那时起,对如何区分一边的科学(以及人文科学)与另一边的荒谬,区分的界限在哪儿展开持续争论;或更确切说我们该如何思考天文学与占星术的关系?如何对待达尔文主义与神创说,科学药物治疗与新纪元康复,或气象学的天气预报与巫术的预言之间的关系?

这一切表明,对诸科学和人文科学的哲学(科学哲学)(Wissenschaftsphilosophie)洞见应成为我们社会哲学通识教育项目的一部分。科学研究和学术研究不能被看成独断的,即对各种理论问题给出一个确定准确的答案,或被看成具有工具意义的安全可靠性,对各种实际问题给出一个最终的解决方案。科学研究和学术研究不应被看成是刚才提到的“科学主义”意义上的,而应被看成是可错的,但又是(有希望地)自我改进的活动,即“看成有组织的怀疑主义”(默顿)。

2)随着知识和技术的科学发展,现代社会已经无意识地产生了许多政治和道德挑战,如关于生态自然的挑战。因此我们已处在规范问题的领域,这些问题最终是哲学问题。

进而,现代社会我们面临着各种不同的文化和宗教的信仰传统——其中有一些需要思想和体制的现代化,而另一些则早已与现代社会的体制性和科学反思性的预设相适应。因此我们不仅遇到文化间和信仰间对话的问题,还遇到了除一神论神学与其它宗教,与不可知论,与无神论信仰之间的挑战外,一神论宗教内如犹太教,基督教和伊斯兰教中相关原教旨主义者的挑战,

这些挑战是紧迫的,还包含着问题——即有关规范性论辩和概念分析的问题——这些问题寻求典型的哲学“处理”。简言之,哲学通识教育中要包含道德哲学和政治哲学。

这一切使我们再次有理由回答青年大学生的哲学一般教化和通识教育的问题。

一旦我们面对这些现代挑战(上述 1)和2)点),我们在强调哲学的角色和重要性时,还应思考哲学在此方面能做什么和各种经验科学,诠释学,或神学,诗歌(文学)表达能做什么这两者之间的关系。

这是关于诸科学和人文科学的哲学的自身问题(也是哲学自身批判性自我反思的问题)。但处理这些问题,光有哲学教育和训练不够,还必须充分了解这些其它学科的知识领域和规范及存在的洞见领域。

但显然有一些基本的规范问题要求得到哲学地“处理”——如对超越情境规范(调节冲突的基本形式)的可能的正当性辩护问题,或对各种活动,科学的或学术的,神学的或意识形态的活动的基本预设不断反思的问题。

讨论对那些不打算成为职业哲学家的学生的哲学通识教育问题,对我们有什么蕴意呢?我们的出发点是,有必要对知识型和分化的现代社会持基本的哲学取向,在此基础上已经蕴含了既要把政治哲学和道德哲学,又要把诸科学和人文科学的哲学包括进来的理由。

的确,这是些难题,在哲学入门阶段也遇到如何处理的问题。

进而,即便我们一开始从关于诸科学和人文科学的哲学或道德和政治哲学中相对具体的问题着手,仍有内在理由说明我们最终仍会碰上基本的哲学问题。

直白讲,我们马上遇到康德的问题:我能知道什么?我应该做什么?我期望什么?人是什么?(以及社会是什么?)我们知道,对这些问题哲学上有不同的观点:人如何思考和应该如何思考知识,道德和宗教,从而应该如何思考自身,思考人类。例如,在知识论(认识论)上,既有智者派对苏格拉底,柏拉图和亚里士多德,也有唯理论者,经验论者和康德式进路的支持者,以及各种语用学观念和现象学家和诠释学家等之间的争论。政治哲学或道德哲学中也是如此。

换句话说,为了以哲学的方式工作,人们必须知道一套特定的立场和论辩。深层的哲学知识要求掌握对相关的不同可选进路的知识。

用实践术语说,这意味着人们不可避免被特定地引入哲学史:哲学和哲学史交织在一起。

但同样,哲学史以不同的方式呈现。对年轻人的哲学教育来说,要求论辩式的讲解,突出各种问题和主题的相关性和当下利益,并把注意力放在重要的讨论集上(如上面提到的智者派与苏格拉底之间的讨论,或唯理论者和经验论者之间的讨论,或中国哲学中类似的讨论集)。

此外,学生在学习哲学史时最好还去阅读特定的原始文本选本 ,这样被提及的哲学家们是带着各自不同的风格和性情(或”气质“)被人倾听(原本如此)的。

这一切应该装在教学的“行装”中。在这个“行装”中,在教师对哲学史的论辩式和以相关性为取向的讲解基础上,学生们还应对他们感兴趣的中心论题展开讨论,把注意力放在重要的讨论上,并附之以阅读主要思想家的选本。

这是两种进路:即学生对始于此时此地思考的问题的讨论和阅读经典文本(前一种进路是“自下而上”,后一种是“自上而下),在评价这两种进路时要注意避免一维教化的危险——学生或是没有超越自己偏好(和偏见)而只根据偏好进行讨论,或被某个经典作家(列宁,柏拉图或福柯)的思想所折服,认为自己看到了唯一真理,那都会产生单面性。

认真对待哲学,就必须熟知反证和其它可选的立场和思维方式。自我批判的反思是哲学所必须的,因此学生必须知道一套特定的话语情境,这套话语情境与他感兴趣的问题相关。为了达到该目的,需要生动的讲座,教师要激发讲座的兴趣,把问题置于各种视角下,还需要编写论辩式的哲学史讲义,突显被不同哲学家和哲学史不同话语情境所处理的问题的一般意义和现实意义。

此外,我们在谈论哲学文本时,不只在所谓的“原始文本”和传统的或多或少描述性的哲学史之间作出区分。

首先,也可以论辩式地编写哲学史,强调哲学史对今天思想的意义。

其次,除了这种文本外,我们还有研究特定哲学家或哲学问题的学术书籍和文章——这是作为学术科学的哲学的领域。

再者,书籍或期刊中的文本合集代表了在世的当代哲学家们在推动特定讨论向前中的高水平贡献——这些讨论或是关于以往哲学家的,或是在世的当代哲学家之间的,如“某某人及批评者”一类的选集(参见《哈贝马斯,批判的论争》,及《罗蒂及其批评者》等)。

因而,哲学文本的多样性比我们用“原始文献”和“二手文献”的区分所包含的蕴意要丰富得多。

这里我们碰到了一个可称为哲学的“位置”(希腊术语,哲学的场所(the topos of philosophy))的棘手问题:什么是哲学?哲学在哪里?哲学在命题中(在著名思想家的命题中)?在特定的段落中?在经典著作中?或在某个思想家的文本全集中?或在给定的文本全集所属的话语情境中——情境某种程度由历史情景产生,例如以政治或科学挑战为特征的历史情景?

关于哲学的“场所”的问题——即在哪里能找到哲学?——引导我们进入基本的诠释学问题。但由于我们现在讨论的是哲学通识教育,我将只作两点评述:

1) 的确,知晓所有这些“位置“(topi)是可取的——详述命题和引文,仔细深入加以阅读和解释,或阅读书籍或文章,理解部分和整体的相互关系,以及熟知真正思想家的整个文本全集都是有价值的。

2) 同样有价值的是,从相关的商谈和历史的情境中看待文本(和思想家)。就我们的问题(青年哲学教育)而言,我认为,把注意力放在商谈和历史的情境上,即思想家所处时代面临的科学和政治挑战,这尤为重要。以欧洲哲学史为例:

熟知柏拉图或亚里士多德,笛卡儿,洛克或康德的文本对通识教育的确有用。但要理解康德,必须看到他正反两面的“用意”,如他设法捍卫自然科学(牛顿和因果律),以此反对他眼中的破坏性的怀疑主义(休谟的怀疑主义),同样,他捍卫的是与个人自律相关的(形式)道德,而非纯粹感情的效用。简言之,为了理解康德,我们必须理解他的商谈语境。

同样,在看待象笛卡儿和斯宾诺莎这样设法用某种公理体系构造哲学的唯理论者时,也要将其置于以数学语言构造的新兴自然科学为特征的商谈和历史情境中。亚里士多德与柏拉图及其他早期古希腊哲学家的商谈关系,就如同柏拉图对智者派的怀疑主义之间的关系,如果对此不加以考虑,就无法全面理解亚里士多德。

诠释学的要点是:情境重要。是理解说了什么和为什么这样说的问题。

我们或许会问:把思想家置于情境中,是否会把他们的洞见和主张相对化了?这视情况而定。借助这种情境化,我们能更好地理解说了什么和为什么这样说。此外,这些思想家遇到的更深层的挑战也是我们今天所遇到的——以康德为例,他面临的挑战是:如何协调自然知识,道德义务和宗教信仰这三者之间的关系?现代挑战产生的问题是,康德的回应是否对我们今天仍有意义:即对基本预设的反思分析是处理有关哲学问题的富有成效的方式?这些挑战确实是现代(过于现代)挑战——尽管对康德之后相关黑格尔或马克思,基尔凯戈尔或海德格尔等人的挑战还可以说更多。

直白讲:借助商谈和历史情境(尤其是科学和政治挑战)来看待哲学,不仅有助于我们理解说了什么和什么成问题,而且也有助于我们看到嵌于这些哲学中的一些有效性主张,并对此采取积极的论辩态度。我们还可以说:对早期思想家所处的商谈和历史情境的关注也提醒我们注意自己的商谈和历史情境。

我们已经在不同文本和情境中找到哲学的“位置”(topos)。但哲学和言说的作用是什么?

我们记得柏拉图,这个伟大的作者,对文字表示怀疑(见第七封信);笛卡儿也大声说,他没有从研究早期思想家著作中学到多少东西。因此哲学的位置或许主要不在图书馆的书架上,而确切说是在讨论课上面对面的谈话中,甚至在个体对哲学问题的(非书面)沉思中吗?

显然这些我们都需要,既需要文本,也需要对话(和个人沉思)。不是非此即彼,而是两者都要。这点对哲学通识教育而言同样重要。但在我们考察哲学通识教育的实践意义之前,先把注意力放在两个相关点上:

哲学文本是一回事。我们对文本的态度是另一回事。这里有一个对间接意图和直接意图(intention oblique and intention recta)的经典区分,简单说,是对描述性态度和取向问题的态度间的区分(理想类型区分),即:要么1)把文本及信息看成事实,是我们可以“拥有”的(如一项知识),可以向他人谈论的(如教师对学生谈论或考试中学生之间谈论的),要么2)把文本及信息看成一项挑战,我们应设法对其作出批判性的积极评价,认真对待其各种有效性主张。

宽泛地说,这种区别就如同两类人的区别:1)一类人是研究海德格尔的专家,他在哲学和历史层面对海德格尔本人和其著作了解甚多,和2)另一类人对海德格尔进行私人地全面研究,认真对待其主张后,确信海德格尔所说基本正确。两者都是学者,或都是教师,但后者可能还是传道者—优秀或糟糕的!

第二类人的态度,优点是认真考虑了海德格尔的有效性的基本主张。但缺点是,我们已经提过,缺乏对海德格尔思想的批判视角。(我们从约翰·密尔那里知道:我们只有向反证和其它可选的视角积极敞开时,才能自信于自己的观点)。因此,对海德格尔思想(或被认真对待的其他哲学家)的反思质疑是哲学的内在要求。进而也就要求熟知相关的商谈情境。对待象海德格尔这样深刻的思想家,还隐含地要求合理熟知整个哲学的基本立场和思维方式(不仅是邻近的现象学家和存在主义哲学家,还有例如赖尔和维特根斯坦这样的分析哲学家)。

但在思考各种立场和思维方式的多元论的层面,也存在着对于描述态度和相关问题的态度之间的相似区分。在此,前种(描述性)态度会导向基本的怀疑论:存在各式各样的情境化的哲学,似乎无法获得有效性和真理——因为这个问题本身也被情境化了!

相反,后种(相关问题)的态度把我们引向何方呢?引向深处——真正的哲学家会认真对待与哲学立场和思维方式的多样性有关的相关问题的态度,这种态度超出了对学者和哲学通识教育者的通常要求。与此同时,每个学习或教授哲学的人对于各种哲学立场和思维方式也应该获得一些批判性的基本洞见(如通过不断讨论和学习过程,逻辑实证主义的批评得到逻辑实证主义支持者的认可)。对不同立场和思维方式既有外在批判,也有内在批判,学习哲学的学生应该思考这些批判。因此,存在可能改进的基础,对与可能和应该达到的程度相比好得不够的立场和思维方式加以扬弃。通识层面上也存在真正哲学教育的基础。

这再次要求积极商谈的态度和实践。显然我们遇到一个决定性的教学要求,就如何向年轻人教授哲学而言:取向问题的态度和商谈实践。

我们从哲学教育的何为,为何和为谁的问题谈起,现在再对如何的问题提些建议:

我们现在讨论的是现代社会青年哲学通识教育,我强调对一套特定的历史语境化的商谈情境加以关注的重要性,在以论辩和以问题为取向方式讲解并附之以原始文本选本(这取决于学生的能力程度)的哲学史中,这个商谈情境是关键要素。同时,我强调,除了需要生动的讲座外,还需要在学生间开展生动的讨论,让学生在教师指导下(并适合他们的需要和能力)经历个人写作的经验。

简言之,我建议教学的“行装”里要包含各种活动:读,写,说和听——全部包含于持续的学习过程中(设想这种情况:人们只从事其中一项活动:只读不写,只读不说或不听-只写不读,或只写不说或不听——只说不听,或只说不读或不写——只听不说,只听不读或不写。这在理智上多么可怕!我猜测我们已经在自己的智力环境中认出这种倾向!)

进而,我建议在教授哲学史时教师要设法把对有效性问题的关心和对情境的关心结合起来:作为教师,我们应首先注重问题,而非答案。如果不理解答案背后的问题,就无法得到可理解的有意义的答案。确实,哲学与工具性的学科如力学不同,工具性的学科是一次性地掌握基本问题(以及实践运用)。

在问题和答案之间我们有认作是答案的各种支持论据——有各种各样的哲学论据和观点。

最后我们要考虑在基本或显见问题背后的背景和预设,也要考虑被认作是该语境的答案的蕴意。

举例说:据说古希腊哲学家泰勒斯说过,万物是水。表面看,这个答案是荒谬的!但如果我们假定基本的问题是关于理解变化的问题,进而是关于理解世界上发生之物的问题,假定水是呈现所有其它形式的基本要素——水首先变成冰或气,然后变成其它事物——那蕴意极为重要:既然我们在原则上能理解水——水是自然现象——那么我们也能理解宇宙万物;没有任何东西可以在我们理解之上,没有任何东西是神秘或不可理解的。简言之,我们被准许通过人类的考察来探究宇宙。从此,讨论开始了。这是古希腊哲学的开端。

这一图式——考察问题,理由和答案之间的相互作用,同时一边把注意力放在背景和预设上,一边把注意力放在蕴意上——也有助于我们设法理解当代思想家。例如,对阿佩尔和哈贝马斯的关于有约束力的普遍规范的讨论加以评价时无疑应该考虑他们在二战期间的经历。法国后现代主义者的思想也应被置于法国的语境,法国有博学多才的高级知识精英(at 汇集在索邦大学,巴黎高等师范学校)和公共空间(圣米歇尔大道上从凡尔赛广场到索邦大学),人们在此自认为尽情表达着自己的观点,尽管背后是双重反思——因而,每个人都自以为是。但随后这些文本传到美国大学,成为“法国思想”课程阅读清单上的严肃教科书,随之产生了英语学术文章和书籍,再被引入到其他国家,被那些想跟上法国思想的人认真阅读!

因此,结论是,教学“行装”有什么哲学的要求?我谨慎地指出以下几点希望:

有必要获得来自学习过程的教化和对熟知的哲学史和当代哲学的商谈情境中的各种立场和思维方式加以取向。

有必要通过通过仔细分析预设反思显见和隐含的预设,反思既是重构,又是批判。

有必要对运用于各种语境中的概念加以仔细分析,,这些概念既被用于各种论辩,也被默会地用于日常事务。

这是一些相关有效性的哲学活动。但此外有要关注哲学思维的创造性特征,就如提到的“重新描述”一词(罗蒂用语,或海德格尔那里的“解蔽”)。

还要关注回溯性的进路(如黑格尔说,以概念把握经验),以此设法阐明和重新解释以往重要的经验。

最后要强调的是,哲学事实上是一项以不同工作方式进行的多重工作。在此我们应当注意经常以思想实验形式出现的例子的哲学运用,借例子“表明”一些基本要点,这些要点既不被经验确认,也不被逻辑证明,而对那些其观点和洞见得到言说者认可的人而言,这些例子也不只是教学范例。为了“找到”和“表明”以前没有被看到或没有以那种方式看到的观点,我们可以在哲学中使用例子。

最后还要强调一点,通过叙事和自我学习过程,都能推进哲学:叙事使我们改变视角或采取新的视角,自我学习过程则阐明我们看待世界的方式。

我们的问题是:现代社会的青年哲学通识教育。答案呢?一个理想的恰当回答显然要求甚高。但向青年学生教授哲学仍收获颇丰,尽管我们作为教师无法遵循全部理想要求——只要我们确实喜爱从事的工作,喜爱谈论的东西和与之谈论的对象,那就是回报。

对学生而言呢?我希望他们同样能体验这种哲学教育的意义和重要性。

=============================================

Gunnar Skirbekk

www.uib.no/People/hsvgs

ECNU Shanghai

May 2007

(27.04.)

PHILOSOPHICAL EDUCATION

What, why, how – and for whom?

A lecture marking the publication of the book “Timely Thoughts” in Chinese

I first visited this university in the spring of 1991. At that time I had known Tong Shijun for a couple of years. And at that time (1991) I had the pleasure and honor of meeting colleagues and students at this campus, including Professor Feng Qi. Since then I have returned to East China Normal University several times, and some scholars from Shanghai have visited me and my colleagues in Bergen. In these 16 years much has changed, not least in Shanghai and at East China Normal University. And at this occasion I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the collaboration and friendship that has developed during this period, and my admiration for the great achievements that I have witnessed in your country and at your campus.

Few things are as rewarding and uplifting as the task of teaching philosophy to young people – when they still are open and not blasé, before they have found their way, in some field or discipline. A meaningful and exciting task, if you ask me – but also involving great responsibility. What are we doing to them, really?

We hope for the best. And even if it is not quite true, as it is said: “All they need is love”, it is certainly true that a teacher has to like that which one is talking about and to like those one is talking to. If not, it won’t work. And then one certainly has to know what one is talking about and know how to talk about it, to (and with) the others. Love for wisdom, as the old Greek said – literally “philo-sophia” – and that’s what it is all about, also here.

So, philosophical education, that is the theme for this lecture – related to the questions: what, why, how – and for whom? And to start with the latter question: My focus today is general philosophical education, philosophical education for students who do not intend to become professional philosophers within some special field, nor for those who have a personal and special philosophical interest that they want to pursue – that is, my focus is philosophy as a general formation and education.

And this is a theme, I assume, with some special relevance for an elite institution for the education of teachers in a country with a long and impressive philosophical tradition, a university like East China Normal University, that even has an amazing and urgent appeal, carved in stone, in the midst of its campus: “seek truth, foster originality, and live up to the name of teacher”.

However, in this lecture I shall primarily refer to what at the outset was seen as western philosophy. Moreover, I shall focus on education within the framework of modern mass institutions, with exams and degrees; this implies that I shall not focus on the special interpersonal relationships that probably are required for a deeper transmission of virtues and wisdom.

General philosophical education for young people in modern universities: What is the point? What is the topic? What is the way of teaching? I shall not start with the pedagogical question, but conceive this question (“how”) from the point of view of what the topic should be, and why, for these students.

Nor shall I start with the topic, taken isolatedly, as we might have done in cases of educating those who are going to be professional philosophers.

In our case, general education for young people, these three questions are interconnected: why, what and how.

How should we approach these questions? One answer goes as follows: Young people today live in modern societies, and here we take this to mean: in knowledge-based and differentiated societies, with different cultures, religions and world views. This situation gives rise to several philosophically related questions:

(i) There are many kinds of knowledge, for instance related to everyday practices and personal experiences; but in modern societies many important kinds of knowledge are based on scientific and scholarly research. However, the sciences and the humanities are differentiated into various disciplines and subdisciplines, each of them conceiving, “screening”, their field of knowledge by their own notions and methods. In short, scientific and scholarly disciplines are perspectivistic. Thus there is a need for an ongoing reflection on what the various disciplines can and cannot yield, in relation to each other and to our life-world experiences. Moreover, the results of scientific and scholarly research are in principle fallible, and hence we have to realize that the various kinds of perspectivistic knowledge are also uncertain. And finally we have the ongoing debate on what counts as scientifically and scholarly good or bad research, and from there on, how and where the border should be drawn between the sciences (and the humanities) on the one hand and nonsense on the other; or rather how should we conceive the relationship between astronomy and astrology? And what about Darwinism versus creationism, science-based medicine versus New Age healing, or meteorological weather-forecast versus prophecies based on witchcraft?

All in all this means that insight in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities (Wissenschaftsphilosophie) should be part of a general educational program in philosophy in our societies. And scientific and scholarly research should not be conceived as being dogmatic, i.e. as giving the one right and certain answer to theoretical questions, or as being instrumentally safe and secure, giving the one and final solution to various practical problems. Scientific and scholarly research should not be conceived “scientistically” in the sense just mentioned, but rather be conceived as a fallible, but (hopefully) self-improving activity, i.e. “as organized skepticism” (Merton).

(ii) Modern societies, with a science-based development of knowledge and technology, have unintendedly given rise to many political and moral challenges, e.g. of an ecological nature. Thereby we are already within the realm of normative questions, questions that in a decisive sense are philosophical.

Furthermore, in modern societies we encounter a large field of different cultural and religious convictions and traditions – some of these will need an intellectual and institutional modernization, while others have long ago adapted to the institutional and scientific and reflective presuppositions of modern societies. Hence we are faced with problems of inter-cultural and inter-convictional dialogues, but also, for instance, with challenges related to fundamentalist convictions in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as between these monotheistic theologies and other religions and agnostic and atheistic convictions.

These are urgent challenges, and they include questions – e.g. concerning normative argumentation and conceptual analyses – that ask for typically philosophical “treatments”. In short, moral and political philosophy should be included.

All in all, here again we have a reasonable answer to the question about the point of a general philosophical formation and education for young people at our universities.

In emphasizing the role and importance of philosophy, once we are faced with these modern challenges (point i and ii above), we should at the same time consider the relationship between what philosophy can do in this respect and what can be done by the various empirical sciences and hermeneutic disciplines, or by theology, or by poetic (literary) expressions.

These are themselves questions of the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities (and of the critical self-reflection of philosophy itself). But in coping with such questions it is not sufficient to be philosophically trained and educated, one also has to be sufficiently knowledgeable about these other fields of knowledge and of normative and existential insights.

But apparently there are basic normative questions that do require a philosophical “treatment” – such as the question of a possible justification of context-transcending norms (for the regulation of basic forms of conflict) or the question of an ongoing reflection on basic presuppositions in various activities, be they scientific or scholarly, or be they theological or ideological.

What are the implications for us, discussing the question of a general philosophical education for students who do not intend to become philosophers by profession? Well, we took our point of departure in the need for basic philosophical orientation in modern knowledge-based and differentiated societies, and on this background we have indicated why we should include philosophy of the sciences and the humanities as well as political and moral philosophy.

To be sure, these are difficult questions, and it remains to find out how they could be coped with on an introductory level.

Moreover, even when we start with relatively concrete questions in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities, or in moral and political philosophy, there are immanent reasons why we may easily end up with basic philosophical questions.

Bluntly stated, we may soon encounter the Kantian questions: What can I know? What shall I do? What dare I hope for? What is Man? (And what is society?) And as we know, within philosophy there are different views on these questions, on how knowledge, morality and religion can and ought to be conceived – and thereby on how we should conceive of ourselves, of Man. For instance, within the theory of knowledge (epistemology) we do not merely have the Sophists versus Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but also the discussions between rationalists, empiricists and proponents of a Kantian approach, as well as pragmatic conceptions of various kinds, and phenomenologists and hermeneuticians, etc. And similarly for political or moral philosophy.

In other words, in order to work philosophically one has to know a certain repertoire of positions and argumentations. In philosophy knowledge in-depth requires knowledge of relevant alternative approaches.

In practical terms this means that one cannot avoid a certain introduction into the history of philosophy; philosophy and the history of philosophy are intertwined.

But again, the history of philosophy could be presented in different ways. What is needed here, for the education in philosophy for young people, is an argumentative presentation that at the same time gives prominence to the relevance and current interest of the various questions and topics, and that focuses on important clusters of discussion (like the ones just mentioned, between Sophists and Socrates or between rationalists and empiricists, or similar clusters of discussion in Chinese philosophy).

Furthermore, when studying the history of philosophy the students should ideally also read a certain selection of original texts, so that the philosophers referred to could make themselves heard (as it were), with their different style and “temperature” (or “spirit”).

All of this should be given in a pedagogical “package”: In such a “package” the students should also be engaged in discussing central topics that they find interesting, on the background of an argumentative and relevance-oriented presentation of the history of philosophy, focusing on central discussions and supplemented with selected texts of major thinkers.

These two approaches, discussion among the students, starting with problems as they are conceived here and now, and reading of classical texts (one approach “bottom up” and the other “top down”, as it were), should be assessed with respect to the danger of a one-dimensional formation – a one-sidedness that may occur if one merely discusses on the background of one’s own preferences without transcending one’s own preferences (and pre-judices), or if one becomes so overwhelmed by some classical author (be it Lenin, Plato or Foucault) that one thereby believes to have seen the light for all times, the one and only truth.

Taking philosophy seriously one has to be acquainted with counter-arguments and alternative positions and ways of thinking. Self-critical reflection is philosophically necessary, and hence one has to know a certain repertoire of discursive contexts with relevance to the questions that one finds interesting. For this purpose there is a need for live lectures, for motivating lectures that put problems in perspectives, and for written presentations from the history of philosophy that are argumentative and that highlight the general and present importance of the problems dealt with by various philosophers and in various discursive contexts of the history of philosophy.

Moreover, in talking about philosophical texts we do not merely have the distinction between so-called “original texts” and traditional, more or less descriptive histories of philosophy.

Firstly, a history of philosophy may also be written argumentatively and with an emphasis on its relevance for today’s thinking.

Secondly, in addition to these kinds of texts we also have scholarly books and articles on certain philosophers or philosophical problems – this is the domain for philosophy as a scholarly discipline.

Thirdly, there are collections of texts, in books or journals, presenting high quality contributions from various living philosophers to certain ongoing discussions – this might be discussions about certain past philosophers, or it might be discussions between living philosophers, as in anthologies of the kind “so-and-so and his Critics” (cf Habermas, Critical Debates, and Rorty and his Critics, etc.).

Hence the variety of philosophical texts is far richer that what is indicated when we talk in terms of a distinction between “original literature” and “secondary literature”.

Here we touch upon the tricky question of what we might call the “place” of philosophy (the topos of philosophy, to use the Greek term): What, and where, is philosophy? In a statement (be it of a famous thinker)? In a certain paragraph? In a classical work? Or in the whole textual corpus of a thinker? Or rather in a discursive context to which a given textual corpus belongs – a discursive context that somehow is impregnated by a historical situation, for instance characterized by political or scientific challenges?

This question about the “topos” of philosophy – where is philosophy to be found? – leads us into basic hermeneutic problems. But for our purpose, the question of general philosophical education, I shall just make a couple of comments:

(i) Yes, it is desirable to be aware of all these “places” (topoi) – it is worthwhile dwelling upon statements and quotes, to read and interpret them cautiously and in depth, it is worthwhile reading books or articles, to get an understanding of the interrelationship between parts and wholes, and it is worthwhile getting acquainted with the whole textual corpus of a genuine thinker.

(ii) But it is also worthwhile to see a text (and a thinker) in relation to relevant discursive and historical contexts. And for our question (the education in philosophy for young people) I think it is especially important to pay attention to the need for an emphasis on the discursive contexts and historical contexts, e.g. contexts in terms of scientific and political challenges in the time of the thinker. To take a few examples from European history of philosophy:

It is certainly valuable for those who seek a general philosophical education to get acquainted with texts from Plato or Aristotle, or Descartes or Locke or Kant. But to understand Kant, one has to see “what he is driving at”, negatively and positively, for instance his attempt to defend natural science (Newton and causality, as Kant saw it) against what he conceived of as an undermining skepticism (in Hume), and similarly his defense of a (formal) morality connected to personal autonomy, and not to utility of mere emotions. In short, in order to understand Kant, we have to get an understanding of his discursive setting.

Similarly it is important to see rationalists like Descartes and Spinoza, trying to formulate philosophy in terms of some kind of an axiomatic system, in a discursive and historical context characterized by the emerging natural sciences, formulated in a mathematical language. And Aristotle can hardly be fully understood without his discursive relationship to Plato and other early Greek thinkers, just as Plato is situated in arguing against the skepticism of the Sophists. Or take Locke’s political philosophy, based on individuals and contracts, with its background in a new historical situation and with its impacts on later thinkers. And similar points can be made for Chinese and Indian philosophy.

These are hermeneutic points: the context matters. It is a question of understanding what is said and why.

Then we may ask: By situating these thinkers in these terms, do we thereby relativize their insights and claims? Well, it depends. By this contextualization we get a better understanding of what is said and why. Moreover, the deeper challenges that these thinkers were facing are also our challenges today – take e.g. Kant: how to conciliate the interrelationship between scientific knowledge, moral obligation, and religious faith? A modern challenge, giving rise to question whether the Kantian response could be relevant also for us: Could reflective analyses of basic preconditions represent a fruitful way of dealing with some of the philosophical problems involved? These, for sure, are modern (all too modern) challenges – even though there is more to be said, after Kant, e.g. related to Hegel or Marx, or Kierkegaard or Heidegger, and further on.

Bluntly stated: seeing philosophy in terms of discursive and historical contexts (especially scientific and political challenges) does not merely help us understand what is said and what is at stake, but also to see the validity-claims embedded in these philosophies, and hence to take an active and argumentative attitude towards these claims. And we might add: this attention to the discursive and historical settings of earlier thinkers might also serve to remind us of our own discursive and historical situatedness.

Now we have sought the “place” of philosophy (its topos) in various kinds of texts and their contexts. But what about philosophy and spoken language?

We recall that Plato, this great author, expresses his skepticism concerning the written word (in the seventh letter); and Descartes exclaims that he has not learnt much from the study of the writings for earlier thinkers. So maybe the topos of philosophy is not primarily in the shelves of a library, but rather in the face to face dialogues in the seminar, or even in the personal (non-written) pondering on philosophical questions?

Well, evidently we need them both, both texts and dialogues (and personal ponderings). Not either-or, but both. And this point is also of importance for the question of a general philosophical education. But before we look at the practical implications for such an education I would like to pay attention to a couple of related points:

A philosophical text is one thing, our attitude towards the text another. In this respect there is a classical distinction between intention obliqua and intention recta, in short, a distinction (as an “ideal type”) between a descriptive attitude and a problem-related attitude, that is: (i) either regarding a text and its message as something factual that we may “have” (as a piece of knowledge, as it were) and that we may talk about to others (be it as teachers to the students or as students during an exam), or (ii) conceiving a text and its message as a challenge that we should try to assess actively and critically, taking its various validity-claims seriously.

Broadly speaking, there is for instance a distinction between (i) a scholar who is an expert on Heidegger and knows a lot about Heidegger and his writings, on a philological and historical level, and (ii) a person who has studied Heidegger thoroughly and has taken his claims seriously, personally, and thus may have become convinced that Heidegger is basically right. Both are scholars, both might be teachers, but the latter might also be a preacher – for good or bad!

The good thing with the latter attitude is that the basic validity-claims of Heidegger are taken seriously. The bad thing, as we have presented it, is a lack of awareness of critical perspectives on Heidegger’s thinking. (As we know, e.g. from John Stuart Mill: one can only have confidence in one’s own believes when one is actively open for counter-arguments and alternative perspectives.) So there is an internal philosophical need for a reflective questioning of Heidegger’s thinking (or of any other philosopher that is taken seriously). And hence there is a need for getting acquainted with relevant discursive contexts. In the case of a deep thinker like Heidegger, this implies a need for a reasonable acquaintance with the basic positions and ways of thinking in the whole of philosophy (not only from neighboring phenomenologists and philosophers of existence, but also for instance from analytic philosophers like Ryle and Wittgenstein).

But on this pluralistic level, considering a variety of positions and ways of thinking, there is a similar distinction between a rather descriptive and a problem-related attitude. At this level the former (descriptive) attitude may lead to a basic skepticism: There are all kinds of different philosophies, contextualized and situated, and the question of validity, of truth, seems to be out of reach – since this question too is situated and contextualized!

In contrast, where could the latter (problem-related) attitude lead us? Well, into deep waters, for sure – taken really seriously this attitude, related to a plurality of philosophical positions and ways of thinking, is that of genuine philosophers, transcending the general requirements for scholars and also for those seeking a general philosophical education. At the same time, everybody studying or teaching philosophy should acquire some basic critical insights concerning various philosophical positions and ways of thinking (like the ones against logical positivism, recognized by the proponents themselves, after ongoing discussions and learning-processes). There are internal as well as external criticisms of various positions and ways of thinking, criticisms that should be considered by any student of philosophy. Hence, there is also a basis for possible improvements, for an effort to overcome what is less well established than it could and should be. Hence there is a basis for real philosophical education, also at a general level.

But again, this requires an active and discursive attitude, and practice. And hence we are evidently faced with a decisive pedagogical requirement, a requirement as to how to teach philosophy for young people: a problem-oriented attitude and a discursive practice are required.

From the what, why, and for whom, we have now come to some recommendations as to the how:

In our context, aiming at a general philosophical education for young people in modern societies, I will emphasize the value of a focus on a certain repertoire of historically situated discursive contexts, that is, a strong element of the history of philosophy, presented in an argumentative and problem-oriented way, and supplemented with selected original texts (depending on the capabilities of the students). Simultaneously I will emphasize the need for live lectures as well as working groups with live discussions among students and with personal writing-experiences for the students, under supervision (and adapted to their needs and capabilities).

In short, I would recommend a pedagogical “package” containing various activities: reading, writing, talking and listening – all together in an ongoing learning-process. (Think of situations where people mainly do one of these things: either read, without writing, nor talking or listening – or write, without reading, nor talking or listening – or talk, without listening, nor reading or writing – or listen, without talking, nor reading or writing. For sure, an intellectual horror! And still I guess that we recognize some tendencies of this kind, in our own intellectual environment!)

Furthermore I would recommend, for instance in teaching the history of philosophy, that one tries to bring together the concern for validity-questions and the concern of situatedness: As teachers we should first of all pay attention to questions, not to the answers, since what might be conceived as answers is hardly intelligible and meaningful without an understanding of the kind of question that lies behind. Here, for sure, philosophy is different from instrumental disciplines, like mechanics, where the underlying questions (as well as the practical applications) are learnt once for all.

And between the question and the answer we have the arguments that are supposed to support that answer – and philosophical arguments, and points, are of various kinds.

Finally we should consider the background and preconditions behind the underlying or explicit questions, and also the implications of the answer as it is conceived in this setting.

To take an example: Thales, the old Greek philosopher, is supposed to have said that everything is water. Taken at face value, a nonsensical answer! But if we assume that the underlying question is that of understanding change, and thus of understanding what is happening in the world, and assuming that water is seen as the basic element that can take on all other shapes – firstly by becoming ice or damp, and secondly by becoming all other things – then the implication is immensely important: Since we in principle can understand water – it is a natural phenomenon – we can also, consequently, understand everything in the universe; nothing is beyond our understanding, nothing is magic or unintelligible. In short, we are given a license for an exploration of the universe through human inquiry! And from there, the discussion went on. This was the beginning of Greek philosophy.

This scheme – looking at the interplay between question, reasons, and answer, and also focusing on the background and the preconditions on the one hand and the implications on the other – may also be of help in our effort to understand contemporary thinkers. For instance, the experiences of the Second World War should definitely be taken into account in assessing the discussion on universally binding norms in Apel and Habermas. And French post-modernist thinking should be seen in a French setting, with a highly intellectual elite (say, at Sorbonne, or at Ecole Normale Supérieure), where everybody knows everything, and a public space (say, across Place de la Sorbonne, on Boulevard St. Michel) where one is supposed to express oneself sharply, though with a kind of double reflection behind it – hence everybody taking it for what it is. But then these texts are exported to some university campus in the US, becoming compulsory reading on some reading-list on “French Thought”, leading to scholarly articles and books in English, which again are imported elsewhere in the world, and read seriously by those who want to keep up with French thinking!

So, as a conclusion, what is needed philosophically, for this pedagogical “package”? Let me cautiously point at the following desiderata, as I see them:

There is a need for a formation through learning processes and an orientation through an acquaintance with a certain repertoire of different positions and ways of thinking, by discursive contexts from the history of philosophy, and from contemporary philosophy.

There is a need for reflection on explicit and implicit preconditions, in terms of cautious analyses of presuppositions, a reflection that may be critical as well as reconstructive.

There is a need for cautious analyses of concepts, as they are used in various settings, tacitly in everyday dealings as well as in argumentation of various kinds.

These are validity-related philosophical activities. But in addition there is a need for a focus on the creative aspect of philosophical thinking, as it is alluded to with the term “redescription” (in Rorty, or Welterschlie?ung in Heidegger).

And there is a need for a focus on a retrospective approach (as in Hegel, “bringing experiences on concept”), whereby one tries to articulate and reappropriate important experiences of the past.

Finally it is worthwhile underlining that philosophy is indeed a multifarious endeavor, taking different ways of working. In this connection we should pay attention to the philosophical usage of examples, often in terms of thought-experiments, whereby some basic points are “shown”, not empirically confirmed nor logically proven, and nor are these examples just pedagogical illustrations for other people of points and insights already recognized by the speaker. In philosophy we may also use examples in order to “find out” and “show” points that earlier are not seen or seen in that way.

Finally it is also worthwhile underlining that philosophy may proceed by narratives, making us see some points from another angle, possibly in a new perspective, or by explicating how one sees the world, by referring to aspects of one’s own learning-process.

This was our question: general philosophical education, for young people in a modern society. And the answer? Ideally, an appropriate response is evidently quite demanding. But still the philosophical education of young students is highly rewarding, even when we as teachers are unable to live up to all the ideal requirements – it is rewarding as long as we really like what we are doing, what we are talking about and those to whom and with whom we are talking.

And for the students? Hopefully they too would experience this kind of a philosophical education as meaningful and important.

(2007年5月16日于华东师范大学演讲,来源:思与文)

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