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

Europe: What now?

When I grew up in West Germany in the 70’s and 80’s, I learned French in High School, and I participated in a student exchange program that sent us young Germans to live during the Summer months with French families,...

/ July 11, 2016

Book Recommendations 2016

The book list for 2016 reflects my interest in environmental studies, and my return to psychotherapy. The field of political philosophy is also in a state of transition, with emerging global theories and a re-examination of the idea of nation states....

/ June 11, 2016

Sperm Whales

The New York Times just ran an article about Sperm Whales, and their modes of communication. They seem to have an elaborate language that we don’t understand yet. The sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and the...

/ April 17, 2016

Napa Valley

How does a landscape cultivate mildness? You can find out if you go to the Napa Valley in California during spring. It is a composition of vineyards, small towns, wineries, forests and low mountain ranges that slowly narrow until you reach Calistoga. You will find some of...

/ March 26, 2016

Nietzsche: A look back.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the most important philosophers of the last 200 years. He foresaw the downfall of Europe, even though he died in 1900, and he influenced many thinkers in the 20th century. He is commonly seen as...

/ February 14, 2016

Freud’s View of Religion

Freud believed, more so towards the end of his life, that there is a truth in religion: not the “material truth”, or the truth of the believers, but the “historical truth”, the truth that “exists” in the unconscious as a...

/ February 9, 2016

The Roots of Religion

Thanks to modern science, we now know more about religious history than ever: Scientific archaeology began in the 18th century, and since then excavators have been discovering and interpreting evidence, ranging from tiny goddess figurines carved from mammoth ivory to entire...

/ January 23, 2016

Emmanuel Levinas on Peace

The last entry on Carl Schmitt reflected on the implications of a realpolitik where the sovereign state is necessary to protect us from the hatred that can erupt so easily in human relationships. On one extreme end of this spectrum is...

/ January 16, 2016

Carl Schmitt on Political Power

Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) is one of the most influential conservative political thinkers of the 20th century. His work remains very controversial, but his ideas allow us to think through some of the old problems of political philosophy in a fresh light. What...

/ January 11, 2016

2016 – Accelerating Change.

The geopolitical order has been shifting in 2015: Middle-Eastern refugees are flooding into Europe, and the seasonal cycles of nature show signs of disruption and change that is unpredictable and threatening everywhere in the world. Radical ideologies fight for influence, nationalist sentiments are on...

/ January 3, 2016

Book Recommendations 2015

Books flow through our lives, year after year. What we read defines what we think, and vice versa. Our thinking changes probably more as a result of encountering new ideas and arguments, and less as a result of genuine insight and...

/ December 17, 2015

The Message of Jesus

During the Fall of 2015,  I was teaching a class on mysticism, and the question was raised, what are the central teachings of Jesus? Is Jesus a mystic? What are the ingredients for a genuine Christian life? These questions are important...

/ December 8, 2015

What is Zen?

In his book, , written 1961, Thomas Merton describes the nature and essence of Zen, mostly in the first chapter. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience...

/ November 24, 2015