Challenges of the Anthropocene

This paper draws on early twentieth-century philosophical anthropology as well as cognitive science and evolutionary anthropology to examine how humans compensated for their biological under-determination by becoming second-natured, empathetic, cooperative, symbol-using creatures. Examining the capacities for cooperation that emerged in our evolutionary history may help clarify our thinking about contemporary problems that require collective decisions.

Vida Pavesich on November 19, 2018

Can Ethics be the First Philosophy?

Emmanuel Levinas is a unique philosopher in the 20th century. He redefines traditional philosophy by radically re-thinking it from the point of view of justice, which in his understanding originates in the encounter with the other. For Aristotle, the "first philosophy" is metaphysics: what is the meaning of the verb "to be." This leads to a whole system of ontology that serves as the background to 2500 years of metaphysical thought. Levinas suggests a radical turn. "This is the question of the meaning of being: not the ontology of the understanding of that extraordinary verb, but the ethics of its justice. The question 'par excellence' or the question of philosophy. Not 'Why being rather than nothing?', but how being justifies itself."

Jurgen Braungardt on March 23, 2017

Existentialism Today

The task of facing one’s life cannot be met by reasoning alone; it cannot be captured in an abstract system. It requires concrete choices and actions of existing individuals in order to make it meaningful. Existentialism is a philosophical approach aimed at understanding human existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject, not from an academic distance. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard: ‘It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backward. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks about that proposition, it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time simply because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand it—backwards.’

Jurgen Braungardt on July 30, 2015

What is characteristic about Human Rights?

Human rights are universal: all human beings have these rights, for no other reason than their humanity and the values attached to humanity; this means that human rights precede and trump considerations of national sovereignty and that national sovereignty, therefore, does not provide a means to escape human rights obligations. They are also moral claims, and therefore they are grounded in morality, not just law. They are necessary for the protection and realization of certain fundamental, basic and universal human values and interests. They are instrumental principles in the sense that we don’t want them for their own sake; they are means for the creation of better life quality and not just goals in themselves.

Jurgen Braungardt on January 28, 2015
Featured Challenges of the Anthropocene

World Urbanization Trends

"The city allows you to become yourself by making a stranger of you." We are experiencing a historical transition - human civilization will more and more coalesce into very large urban centers. Cities are the manifestation of the cultural, economic...

/ April 21, 2017

Flowers and Art

It is spring in California, and we had plenty of rain through the winter. Everything is in bloom, and the De Young Museum uses this abundance to organize its annual “Bouquets to Art” exhibition. The idea is simple, and it...

/ March 21, 2017

The Execution of Damiens

The use of torture as a form of punishment was commonplace in European societies into the early 19th century. Today, we are outraged by mass killings, genocide, and ISIS beheadings, but extreme violence has always been there; it runs deep...

/ February 23, 2017

Shrump I: Post-Democracy in America?

Before I get started, let’s introduce a new term that helps us to appreciate the differences between words, their meaning, and reality itself. You may wonder what a “shrump” is. If you google it you will find that the definition is still...

/ January 25, 2017

2017 – The Search for Simplicity

2016 was a strange year: more refugees, Brexit, the US Election disaster, a coup d’état by the Government in Turkey, the destruction of Aleppo, Russian and Chinese hacking, the mainstream emergence of artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars are hitting the...

/ January 3, 2017

Are we awake now?

Since election day a week ago, people have been protesting every night in the Bay Area and across the United States. I went to the demonstration yesterday, and want to share some impressions and photos. This family-friendly event on Sunday...

/ November 14, 2016

God bless America!

You wake up and realize that a dystopian vision has become reality: America just became Trump University. There is no termination clause in the contract, and the sale is final. What went wrong? Hillary won in terms of absolute numbers,...

/ November 12, 2016

On Cicero

I recently added some texts from the ancient Roman politician and philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) to this blog. Cicero rose to the highest political offices in Rome, and he defended the Roman Republic, a limited version of democracy...

/ October 31, 2016

Sunset over the Bay Area

“To leave out beautiful sunsets is the secret of good taste.” (Dejan Stojanovic.) Well, occasionally we fail. A spontaneous walk in the evening, without much expectation, and suddenly, there it was, this sunset over the Bay Area, viewed from Tilden Park....

/ October 23, 2016

Pacific Gardens

This is part two of my travel report through the Pacific Northwest. One of my goals for this trip was to visit several gardens. The climate along the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington is mediterranean: warm, sunny, with mild winters,...

/ October 12, 2016

Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest

It’s about a thousand miles to drive on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Port Angeles, the northern-most town that connects the US and Canada. The drive along the ocean is beautiful, through vast coastal landscapes and ancient forests. One can find some of the tallest and...

/ October 8, 2016

Cool Number Tricks

Let’s admit it, most of us are intellectually lazy, and thinking is a strange and hard activity, because it requires effort. Even philosophy, the prime discipline devoted to thinking, mostly circulates the ideas of other people, and has some similarity to journalism. Real thinking...

/ September 13, 2016