Director of the Institute
Four big questions about philosophizing
Since Socrates, the reasons that truly lead to judgements and actions have to be accounted for and are the measure of knowledge. Those who claim to know must be measured. With the help of four questions Kant explained what exactly this entitlement for accountability is, which itself is the base of philosophizing:
What can we know?
Philosophizing asks for the conditions of our thinking and the terms of our knowledge of nature and society. Why can we find out something about subjects with the help of various capabilities (conception, imagination, thinking, and experimental work)?
What do we have to do?
Philosophizing asks whether the assumption of a free will can be argued, and if so, whether and how it is possible with sound principles to determine this freedom of will and to follow such principles in our actions.
What may we hope?
Ideas that neither reflect empirical subjects nor are mere functions of thought, can have an effect on us – this is the concept of humanity or that of a reasonable institution of society. Philosophizing asks: should we not necessarily develop such ideas that hopefully deliver good reasons, or is our yearning simply vain conceits, idle speculation about ideas without substance.
What is a human being?
Without any doubt we are physical-mental-spiritual beings. But a mere definition is not enough for philosophizing and therefore asks: What is mind? What is psyche/soul? How do they relate to each other and how are they related to the body?
The world we live in is a world formed by philosophical assumptions. We take sides in this world for or against “social justice”, for or against free will, for or against the supremacy of the individual, for or against “market forces”, for or against pragmatic consensus, etc. Evaluating, interpreting and forming all these different options of our social (inter-subjective) and private (subjective) reality originate from the philosophical question: what is the significance of knowing something? And what does it mean to really know something. The most the scientific disciplines taught at the universities nowadays have arisen and developed – in the course of centuries – from kinds of inquiry formulated in and by philosophy and have thereafter become independent. Conversely, the individual sciences recently are now discovering that their results are in need of reflection in view of their philosophical assumptions.
Philosophize? What for?
There is a disparity between the social conditions for our actions and principle-guided rationality. Philosophy is the discipline that seeks to explain through its theories, including examining this contradiction. “Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity" (Kant); this immaturity is the submission to the judgement of others that can be revoked by us. Thus, the motto of enlightenment since ancient times has been: “Sapere Aude” – Dare to know! “Trust your own intellect!” Become capable of trusting your own judgements, because you can explain them. Philosophers thus are people who have learned distinction and are capable of passing reasoned judgements about general contexts, conditions and overarching structures in and between the sciences, society, and everyday life. A reasonable social life without the discussion of context of meaning by which it is defined is hardly conceivable. Philosophy is the discipline that belongs to this type of debate.
How to philosophize?
Philosophizing starts with learning to ask the right questions. This requires being able to establish the distance to the everyday, familiar and seemingly obvious to marvel, to wonder, to doubt, and to recognize prejudices as such. The philosopher disregards all common notions about a phenomenon and allows the phenomenon to speak for itself, what it is about and how and why it seems to be the way it is. Philosophizing is not oriented towards the supposedly irrevocable. It is based on what something really is, and thus, what is true.
In the study of philosophy the ability to achieve clarity is trained – in discussion – about the reasons, rules and maxims that we follow in our action and thinking. Plato meant by philosophy also "dialectic", the effort to establish what is true in speech and objection, what should become good, and what is socially right, in terms of human life and what we regard as beautiful, what attracts us and motivates our actions. The love of wisdom, of which philosophy derives its name, refers to the love of people and, to things as well.