Grounded philosophy: Exploring big issues in small places

Year: 2017

Author: Fitzclarence, Lindsay

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Connectivity and interaction, in current times, have contradictory consequences on many different scales. As historians of the contemporary make clear, economic and other forms of co-operation coexist with increasing conflict. Indeed, Hobsbawm (1994) observes that we are living in 'the age of extremes'. And, in The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred (2006), Ferguson notes "The hundred years after 1900 were without question the bloodiest ... in history, far more violent in relative as well as absolute terms than any previous era." Meanwhile philosophers grapple with the problem of how to explore such complex issues both philosoipically and pedagogically.

This paper addresses this problem. It asks two core questions. First, how might the history of ideas assist us to comprehend the tensions between co-operation/conflict in contemporary times? Second, how might this history be made readily comprehensible pedagically? As Forsyth (2006), observes in her study of the enduring relevance of the classics, "our hermeneutic responsibility is to engage in dialogue with these classics, and thereby to initiate a conversation between the past and the present".

Violence and cooperation have recurred as prominent themes in the long history of (Western) ideas. This paper takes illustrative examples from different periods of this philosophical history. It also explains the grounded pedagogy I have developed to undertake this philosophical exercise.

This pedagogy combines two ancient techniques. The first is adapted from Kelly's (2016) studies of indigenous populations who generated and passed down knowledge via significant landmarks in local environments. This she titled the memory code. I use landmarks from the St Kilda Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and associate these landmarks with particular thinkers, ideas and debates. And the pedagogy thus involves a walk through key related moments in the history of ideas.
The second technique employs the Socratic question/answer/question method.

Photographs, of the garden's landmarks, will be used to highlight discussion points in the narrative.

By superimposing ideas from the literature, the pedagogy involves an expose of ongoing narratives of power/ violence and what Weil (1986) described as 'the good'