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Human Freedom and the Philosophical Attitude
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Metaphysics. (Seminar in the Philosophy of Language and Culture)
2015 (English)In: Educational Philosophy and Theory, ISSN 0013-1857, E-ISSN 1469-5812, Vol. 47, no 3Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Attempts to describe the essential features of the Western philosophical tradition can often be characterized as ‘boundary work’, that is, the attempt to create, promote, attack, or reinforce specific notions of the ‘philosophical’ in order to demarcate it as a field of intellectual inquiry. During the last century, the dominant tendency has been to delineate the discipline in terms of formal methods, techniques, and concepts and a given set of standard problems and alternative available solutions (although this element has been both present and at times highly influential at least since Plato). One vital feature of the philosophical tradition that has played a certain rather subterranean but nonetheless indispensable role, which I will discuss in this article, is that of repeatedly and stringently calling into question the conditions of its own possibility. The Cartesian tradition (including Kant, Husserl, Popper and Weber) shares with the anti-philosophers (say, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, but even the later Wittgenstein) the insight that this questioning itself is and has always been a problem, perhaps the deepest problem, for philosophy. The idea that one has the right, even the responsibility, to pose such questions lay at the very heart of notions such as ‘the pursuit of truth’, ‘vita contemplativa’, and ‘philosophy as work on oneself’. On what grounds can one possibly assert such a right? In the modern Western tradition, it has most often been associated with a form of genuine doubt founded in deep engagement with some subject matter, i.e. the notion that one has a ‘problem’ demanding that one take responsibility for one’s beliefs and thoughts, both morally and logically. It seems to me that the meaning of this most basic attitude is something that each generation must rediscover for itself; indeed, recreate for itself in a new environment and under new conditions. Thus, the blindness of the past, in this self-understanding of philosophy, need not bind or blind us in the future. To the contrary, the European intellectual tradition can be seen as providing a series of perspicuous representations of intermittently faltering and flourishing attempts at asserting the viability of the idea of human freedom as essentially bound up with the pursuit of truth. As such, it is of necessity open to perpetual revision (even when it resists it).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015. Vol. 47, no 3
Keyword [en]
philosophy, discipline, autonomy, Foucault, Kant, method, specialization
National Category
Philosophy Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education; Theoretical Philosophy
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-242095DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2014.992651ISI: 000361459800008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-242095DiVA: diva2:782304
Vad ska en svensk kunna?
Swedish Research Council, 2013-2317
Available from: 2015-01-20 Created: 2015-01-20 Last updated: 2015-11-28

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