Philosophies for Living

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9780130883162: Philosophies for Living

This interdisciplinary and intercultural anthology approaches some fundamental philosophical questions with a focus on the “self” — and its discovery, limitations, possibilities, and contexts. Numerous readings and a wide variety of voices include Africans, Natives, Hispanic Americans, religious traditions outside dominant Christian philosophies, and European and Asian traditions. These narratives, poetry selections, and discursive arguments either reinforce or challenge each other and traditional thoughts and beliefs — about human nature, the natural world, race and gender, the good life, society, culture and morality, relationships with others, and religion. For risk-takers who are not afraid to question popular beliefs in order to discover which ones are true to his or her own self.

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The interdisciplinary and intercultural anthology approaches fundamental philosophical questions with a focus on the self—its discovery, limitations, possibilities, and contexts. Numerous readings, ranging from the traditional to the innovative, reinforce and challenge each other as they address thoughts and beliefs about human nature, the natural world, society, class structures, race and gender, human sexuality, relationships with others, and religion. These "voices" encourage students to apply different perspectives to their own lives in order to gain a better understanding of themselves and their world.

Philosophies for Living, First Edition, features:

  • Emphasis on the self and self-identity.
  • Nine distinct thematic sections, with introductions for each.
  • Multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural approach which discusses the "self" across academic disciplines as well as between cultures.
  • A wide variety of voices, including women and men; Africans; Asians; Europeans; Native Americans; Hispanic Americans; religious and secular traditions and philosophies from around the globe.
  • Articulations of philosophical beliefs from beyond the western tradition.
  • Integration of the traditional canon of academic philosophy with the wisdom of other disciplines and traditions.
  • Discussion questions at the end of each chapter that encourage students to reflect on characteristics and activities that may be typical of a philosophical life.
  • A wealth of in-class activities and short essay assignments that assist in strengthening or deepening students' philosophical resolve.
  • Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

    Preface

    As teachers of philosophy, we firmly believe that the purpose of any text is to facilitate the natural curiosity of the student. An introductory philosophy text should help students move from where they are to a clearer, more informed perspective on themselves and their world. To do this, it must not impose a finished and sophisticated philosophy, that is, the scholar's worldview, on the student. Rather, it should begin with the questions that the students may have.

    Today, it is not unusual for many students to see an education as a way out, and not as an affordable leisure. Their questions are practical, or at least they see them as such. As philosophy teachers, we believe we should help students see their questions as no less important than our own. We need to help students look more deeply into themselves, their beliefs, and their worldviews. Since many students choose colleges and universities close to home, it becomes more the case that they have not been nor will they be naturally exposed to different cultures, different beliefs, different worldviews. We need to help them discover the differences in the world around them as well as reexamine the identities they perceive.

    This book is also about voices, and in particular about the voices of those whom we call students and teachers. It is about distinguishing these voices and the questions to which they give rise and the opinions and beliefs that they articulate. It is about discovering from where these voices may come. More important, we need to understand that these voices not only reside in traditions with which we may be unfamiliar, they will at times sound dissonant. As teachers of philosophy, it may become necessary for us to accept that not all philosophical questions nor all articulations of philosophic belief come from what we recognize as the Western philosophical tradition or from those we recognize as philosophers. We need to realize that such voices may be heard as narratives, as poetry, as well as discursive arguments.

    As a reader in introductory philosophy, Philosophies for Living focuses on the self, its discovery, its limitations, its possibilities, and its contexts or worlds. The readings that we include in this text have been used by us, our students, and some of our colleagues since 1993. They have told us what they thought worked, and what didn't, and why. Also, the editorial intent of this anthology is both interdisciplinary and intercultural. As a matter of pedagogy, we genuinely believe it desirable to create a dialogue about the self across academic disciplines as well as between cultures. We believe it is important to balance the attempts of traditional philosophies to cast knowledge of the self in terms apart from ordinary experience with explanations of what it means to be a self in the world, its societies, and its cultures. We further believe it may be important to understand that the world, the societies, and cultures of which we speak are dynamic, constantly changing entities. Cultures do not merely stand alongside one another; now, more than ever, they interact, and each culture lends a part of its identity to the other.

    This text has nine chapters. Each chapter begins with an introduction that explores the questions and themes of the proposed readings for that chapter. Each article has its own introduction, directing readers to ask specific questions and look for specific issues as they read. Each chapter concludes with a set of discussion questions that can be used for in-class activities or short essay assignments. The first and last chapters are about living philosophically. We begin by asking our students and readers to reflect on what characteristics and activities may be typical of a philosophical life. We conclude by pointing to further actions and attitudes that may strengthen or deepen philosophical resolve.

    Between the reflections on the nature of a philosophical life and philosophical activities, we ask students to reflect on how they understand who they are—what makes them the persons they believe themselves to be. The second chapter exposes readers to what philosophers have said about persons and personal identity. Chapter 3 asks students to reflect on how social interactions and modern social practices may influence how their personal identities are constructed. In Chapter 4, we explore the ways in which our perceptions of race and ethnicity affect our sense of self, and in Chapter 5 we explore the ways in which our perceptions of economic class structures and social hierarchies may affect self-affirmation and self-definition.

    Many of us, teachers and students alike, are reluctant to discuss matters of human sexuality. But our sense of our sexuality and the accompanying perceptions of gender differences do have some relation to who we are. Therefore, in Chapter 6 we examine the ways in which questions about sexuality, sexual relations, and gender difference may modify our understanding of who we are. As we note later, many students today are married or have been married, and many are parents. In what ways might our perceptions of what it means to be married or to be a parent help define who we are? In Chapter 7, we explore both classical and contemporary concepts of marriage and parenthood.

    Finally, we address the question of the ways in which religious experiences or a personal faith may contribute to our sense of who we are. Through many experiences as classroom teachers, we have found that students often identify their religious beliefs with their personal identities, so in Chapter 8 our inquiries are not so much about the existence of God or God's attributes as they are about faith and personal meaning. In this chapter, we also include articles that raise questions of cultural difference.

    Readers will discover that in each chapter we have tried to balance the old with the new, the familiar with the unfamiliar, and the traditional canon of academic philosophy with wisdom and argument from disciplines and traditions outside academic philosophy. In doing this, we have tried to remember that our primary audience is students who are making an initial journey into philosophical thinking. Therefore, we believe it is important to keep in mind questions that are created in wonder, if not confusion, especially questions about the self and self-identity.

    A Special Word to Beginning Students of Philosophy

    If you are a student, it may be that you are very much preoccupied with who you are and who you may be becoming. Some, if not many, of your are working at part-time jobs, and a significant number of you are parents; some of you may be single parents. As such, you may be struggling with your identity as male or female; as black, white, or red; as parents; as workers; or with your sexuality and/or with your religious faith. In the latter case, you may find that your questions are more frequently not about whether God exists or what attributes God may have, but rather about whether a religious belief can bring any meaning or purpose to your life.

    In order to help you, as students, answer these questions, we ask you only to "listen" carefully to what each of our authors has to say. A story has persisted for many generations in the halls of academic philosophy. It is a story of a bright, young student who attends a prestigious university and who has recently attended the lecture of a world famous professor. After the lecture, it is told, the young student approaches the professor and asks him to tell him "everything he needs to know." (Why must each be a he?) The professor commands the young student to sit and listen. Thirty minutes pass, an hour passes, and the professor says nothing. The student says: "Professor, I have been sitting here for an hour, and you have said nothing." "Have you been listening?" the professor responds. "Yes," says the eager student. The professor looks at him carefully and says, "Good, you have learned everything you need to know." We must listen, but to whom? Socrates, whose life gives us the paradigm for philosophical conversation, did not just question those who called themselves philosophers. Nor is there reason to suppose he spoke only with males. He spoke with and listened to all, to poets, to soldiers, to statesmen, to artisans, and to women. As individuals who wish to live philosophically, we will and should listen to many voices. Here is what we must risk believing: Truth cannot be found in a single vision, nor can it be uttered by a single voice. Rather, it may be found in the symphony or even in the cacophony of many voices.

    In this book, you will, we hope, listen to many voices. You will hear the voice of the African American, the Native American, the African, the Latin American, and the woman alongside the voice of the Western European male philosopher. You will hear the voice of the homosexual alongside that of the heterosexual; you will hear the voice of the non-Christian, even that of the nonbeliever, alongside that of the Christian; the voice of the believer in the Goddess alongside that of the believer in God; the voice of the poet alongside that of the philosopher; the voice of the postmodernist alongside that of the traditionalist. You will hear voices that defend democracy and monogamous marriage, and those that challenge these institutions. The challenge is to not only hear, but to listen to each of these voices.

    Because you will listen to many voices, many of which challenge one another if not your traditional way(s) of thinking and believing, you will engage in what we like to call "risky business." The risks are many, and they come rather quickly and from some rather fundamental activities. The risks come from questioning, from examining what you believe, and from attempting to redefine who you are. These activities will come naturally as you read the various authors in this anthology, because as you read, you should be questioning what they say, examining how what they say reinforces or challenges your beliefs, and applying these different perspectives to your understanding of who you are.

    By engaging in these risks, it may be that you will discover that a meaningful and valuable life is not one that can be defined by a series of objective tests, but rather one that can emerge from a continuum of subjective investigations. Philosophy can help in such investigations; its method of critical thinking is a powerful ally when attempting to live one's life with meaning and with integrity, that is, authentically. When one pursues an investigation of the authenticity of one's beliefs and one's own authenticity, it cannot be without risk.

    The first risk, and perhaps the most necessary one, will come in questioning popular beliefs and what you may have accepted uncritically as true and valuable. Among these beliefs are ones about human nature, the natural world, race and gender, the good life, the good society, culture and morality, relationships with others, and religion. You will be asked to question and examine how what you have learned may be the product of social, political, and economic environments. You may discover that there is a possibility, even a strong possibility, that some of the things you have learned may not be true, and that some things that many may have set aside as inconsistent with an affirmed popular belief may in fact be of more value for your life than you could have imagined.

    When examining popular beliefs, especially those that have in some way shaped your life and identity, you will need to have the proper motive, and that itself involves the risk of unpopularity. One takes no risk when challenging a belief simply for the sake of "political correctness" or of being on the currently popular bandwagon. Philosophy genuinely may teach anyone that truth is such that it does not shift with the current political winds, only the appearance of truth shifts. Living philosophically may mean always being challenged to risk the unpopular question. Societies resist those who ask such questions, even though these societies may be disturbed by an awareness that they are adrift in a lack of meaning and value. One philosopher put it this way:

    In such a disturbed society disciplined thought has its enemies. For being tuned as most are to cliches, unsubstantiated gossip, political niceties, cocktail cackle, and unreasoned slogans, many of our most serious problems continue for the sake of self gain, expediency and social conformity, to be enshrined in an atmosphere bedraggled by apathy. It frequently becomes the task of the serious philosopher not only to explore such apathy but to scrutinize the wounds in the value structures that allowed it in the first place. And this is where he or she can expect to court unpopularity.

    To embark on the journey of doing philosophy in a contemporary society that is overrun with personal interest, increasing xenophobia, trivialized value, and a demand for immediate practical return on one's academic investments is not an easy task and is at best an unpopular task. We live today in an undisciplined society, a society in which academic resolve, philosophical living, and a sense of universal community are viewed with suspicion. This suspicion is so pervasive that one is led into closeting opinions, suppressing beliefs, and eventually into self-estrangement. In such a society, we need to find the alternate path that Socrates took. Later in this work, when you read the Apology, Socrates' defense of his life, you may discover that the risk of questioning and examining one's life is a necessary component of both moral character and "the good life."

    Because what we are asking you to do does expose you to many risks, we offer one special word of caution and advice. Listening to other and newer voices does not mean one stops listening to older and more familiar ones. The risk in listening is not to jump to the conclusion that truth and morality are relative. While it may be reasonably argued that some of what has passed for truth and morality may be nothing more than the political constructs of a power elite, it does not logically imply that all that has been put forward as truth and morality has been constructed this way, nor does it entail relativism. Truth and morality can never be understood merely as the case of equal but differing opinions. Though it may be difficult to discover what is true and morally valuable, and though it is certainly unsettling to discover that what one has assumed to be true and morally valuable is not so, this should not lead us to despair of truth and moral value. In challenging tradition, we take risks, but one risk that must be met squarely by those wishing the philosophical life is not to "throw out the baby with the bath water." Consequences result from challenging traditions, but as T. H. Huxley tells us: "Consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men. " Men or women, we must risk letting the consequences of challenging and questioning, of listening to other than familiar and comfortable voices, take care of themselves.

    A Special Word to Philosophy Teachers

    As authors and editors of this anthology, but most especially as philosophy teachers, we have decided both to take a number of risks ourselves and to challenge you to accept some of these same risks as well as the ones ordinarily found in philosophical living. We have included a number of thinkers not found in the so-called "canon" of traditional philosophy, for we wish to risk a challenge to an authority that m...

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