Otherwise philosophy, Philosophy otherwise

Levinasian philosophical practices

Friday 26 November 2021, 1:00pm–6pm EST. Live-streaming on MS Teams

1:00pm: Welcome and Introduction

1:15pm (8:15 pm in South Africa): Helen Douglas, Philosophical Counsellor, Cape Town, South Africa, “Otherwise Philosophy or Philosophy Otherwise: Levinasian Philosophical Practices”. I’ll be talking about my counselling work as an interpersonal Levinasian practice of ethics and emancipation as well as the possibilities his work opens towards a new mode of thinking in troubled times.

3:00pm: Deborah Achtenberg, University of Nevada, Reno, “Shestov, Levinas and Plato on the Human Good”

4:00pm: Bruce Gilbert, Bishop’s University, “The ‘Institution’ of the Good in Levinas”.

4:45pm: Bettina Bergo, Université de Montréal, “Women and Revolution in the Talmud”


Making sense

Like consciousness is always consciousness of something (if you believe Husserl), making sense is always to someone, to some particular first-person singular. It’s interior, private, personal. That makes sense to me. But I have to ask you, Does this make sense to you?

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QA 60. None the wiser (On the obligation and cultivation of wisdom)

Last week, I had the pleasure of addressing a conference of family mediators in Cape Town on the topic of “Wisdom in mediation”.

Two stories

First story. An ethics professor once said to an undergraduate philosophy class, “If you believe that a professor of ethics is an ethical person, you are making a category mistake.” The students recognised that this was true. At the same time, at least one of them thought, “Yes, but you ought to be.”

Continue reading QA 60. None the wiser (On the obligation and cultivation of wisdom)

QA 59. To be a comrade

What did it mean: to join the Party? Brecht says it best. I was not an exploiter, so I could grasp it.

To dedicate oneself to a more human society. For justice and peace, bread and roses. Against exploitation and oppression. Against all odds. To understand the indivisibility of freedom. To adopt José Martí’s willingness to share one’s fate con los pobres de la tierra. To know the world again, differently, in many dimensions, ranged along new coordinates. Eyes open, edgy. To become serious, disciplined, responsible. To get over oneself, forsaking singular, private prides and fears. A kind of loving, of deference.

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QA 58. “But it doesn’t work like that!”

Annals of philosophical counselling/practice with others

“But it doesn’t work like that!” I say this in response to some proposed scheme or strategy of yours. I mean that, in terms of what you want to achieve, what you are doing seems either futile or malicious because you have a mistaken view about what’s going on. (I could be wrong, of course. We can talk about that.)

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QA 57. “Need I remind anyone, again?”

Between 1987 and 1990, my husband Rob and I ran a safe house for the liberation movement in apartheid South Africa. We were part of what we would later learn was named Operation Vula, short for Vul’indlela (“Open the road” in Zulu). Its aim was to infiltrate exiled leaders of the African National Congress/Umkhonto we Sizwe back into the country to help co-ordinate the different streams of popular resistance within the country – trade unions, civics, students, armed units and others – and to open a secure channel of communication between the leadership inside the country, in prison and in exile.

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New article: TO CHANGE OUR THINKING: PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES

South African Journal of Philosophy, 35 (2), 2016, pp 123–131.

You can find it here or there.

The self-confidence of the human being, freedom, has first of all to be aroused again in the hearts of these people. Karl Marx

ABSTRACT: If a time of crisis calls for a new mode of thinking, philosophical practice offers the means to answer that call. Contemporary philosophical practice revitalises the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy as a way of life that cultivates personal transformation and new ways of seeing the world. This article describes the development of the author’s philosophical counselling practice as a practice of emancipation, in concert with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Rancière. It considers the significance of personal engagement and companionship for the cultivation of practical wisdom, and suggests that the intransigence of our global social and economic crises ultimately indicates an incorrect view of human nature and an ossified or unbalanced relationship between practical and theoretical ways of knowing and wisdom.

QA 56. Four touchstones for thinking about peace

For Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and because I’m reading Thula Simpson’s Umkhonto We Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, thinking about and respecting the lives of everyone who stood against apartheid, those whose names are known or unknown, remembered or forgotten. Thinking that the aim of the struggle was peace, and how we’re not there yet. Thinking that peace without justice isn’t good enough, but neither would be justice without peace.

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QA 54. #What rises?

The student movement that flashed into life this year in South Africa, from #Rhodesmustfall at the University of Cape Town to the extraordinary #Feesmustfall protests last week in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Grahamstown and Pretoria, is a complex and dynamic phenomenon. Lots going on there. But there are two things I’ve been trying to think about. Two things that they are “getting right” (that’s the phrase in my head). Two elements that have held us in thrall, enthralled even as we participate here on the outside, that make it feel so momentous.

Continue reading QA 54. #What rises?