PETER CRITCHLEY - BEING AND PLACE
'I work quite diligently and wish that I were better and smarter. And these both are one and the same.' (Wittgenstein).
'A diagram and a step (an advance in knowledge), not a diagram and penny.'
It is the wealth of a lifetime to know who you are, be who you are, and rest where you ought to be. I am irreducibly polynomial: constants, variables and exponents, but never division by a variable.
My name is Peter Critchley, welcome to Being and Place. I have put this site together in order to give an overview of my work over the past two decades, and to report on the direction of my current research.
I work on a number of projects within the theme of Being and Place. This site is designed not only to promote this work, but to set it in the context of my past work. Links to full texts of my books, papers, articles and essays can be found on the "Books" and "Papers" pages. The "Being and Place" presents an outline of the range of materials I draw on as well as an essay on the rationale.
I am an independent scholar who has worked in free access, by choice and by commitment to the world of letters on my part. I have made my writings available across a number of sites – Academia, Humanities Commons, ResearchGate, Mendeley, praxisphilosophie, and other places – and have been honored to have exchanged communications with researchers, academics, and scholars on various issues raised. I have also worked with students at all levels, and have particularly enjoyed seeing them build on many of the ideas I present in my work in developing their studies. My motivation in producing this rather gargantuan body of work has been neither fame nor fortune. I do not charge for my writings and have been happy to help students free of charge. There is immense reward for me in being contacted by people who are serious about ideas and their application, and in being thanked by fellow truth-seekers. It has been particularly pleasing to have seen the students with whom I have been in touch and who have made use of my writings take their studies to the highest level, to Masters and PhD level and publication. To have been thanked by them has been heart-warming; they offer tangible evidence that the effort and hard-work over the years has been fruitful. Ideas make a difference for the better in the world.
The purpose of my site is to show how the various parts of my work are interlocked in such a way as to establish a view of philosophy as an ethos, an informed way of life. My writings, however diverse the themes and thinkers I draw on, possess a clear rationale. I am concerned with the development of the integral personality living the integral life, with the unity of each individual and all individuals, and with the unity of human society within Nature’s community of life.
In this body of work, Karl Marx rubs shoulders with St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante with Kropotkin, William Blake with Immanuel Kant, Machiavelli with Lewis Mumford. There are writings on philosophy, ethics, politics, ecology … The work is eclectic, but not in some shallow sense. There is a big picture here, summed up under the title of "Rational Freedom." Think Plato and Aristotle on the modern terrain, the democratic assimilation and willing of transcendent truths and principles. There is a connecting thread throughout the whole corpus, one concerning the connection between reason and freedom, but with both reason and freedom understood in rounded, expansive ways. My concepts make room for creative human agency and give due recognition to feeling, emotion, intuition. Human beings are sensing, feeling, intuiting beings as well as rational beings. Plato knew that reason did not govern alone, hence he made room for the good and the beautiful. I affirm Plato's wisdom in making Beauty the supreme political category for the way it lights the way to Truth and invites the heart to follow. Alongside reason runs a mytho-poetic vision. And imagination. And at no point do I mistake the concept for the real and come to pursue symbols to the neglect of principles. The purpose of this site is to make my overall vision clear and explicit and to report on my work as it continues to unfold.
My principal concern with ‘Being and Place’ is with what it means to dwell and live in an active sense in a place that we identify as home. This is Be-ing as an active, existential state which speaks of the embeddedness of life and living, as against ‘being’ as a passive condition or substance.
This site contains a specific 'Being and Place' page where I present the overarching vision one place, broken down into detailed sections. This page outlines the research notes I work from, which I intend one day to write up as the book 'Being and Place.'
Put simply, I argue for a philosophy for living, a philosophy that draws on a venerable tradition concerning the art of living and which demonstrates a practical concern with ways of living well, ways of being. As this site develops, I will bring the my positive vision of right living along moral-ecological lines more and more to the forefront.
This is me taken next to the Martin Luther King jr statue at Riverside, California. The other side of the statue has a quotation from King's Drum Major Instinct sermon, the last sermon he gave before his assassination. The sermon was about leading by serving, by serving a just cause, by serving others.
"Say that I was a drum major for justice.
Say that I was a drum major for peace.
I was a drum major for righteousness.
And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
In commitment to others, we can make of this old world a new world
My approach is ‘down to earth’. Whilst we live in a ‘this-worldly’ state, we are not merely worldly. Human beings possess a cosmic longing for meaning that transcends a material immediacy. That desire points to a transcendental source and end that involves us in a continuous coming-to-be within a purpose-filled universe. Knowing ourselves and knowing our world is really the same question. We are interrelated and interdependent beings, both with respect to each other and to the world around us. We are all parts of a seamless web of mutuality, tied together in a single tapestry of life. Whatever affects one part of this web will affect other parts.
My view is that human beings are creative agents, co-creators in a ceaselessly creative universe that is in some part a human creation. My concern is that in the process of creation, we may come to lose ourselves in the world we have part created, lose our respect for and connection to nature’s life support systems, and lose our respect for and connection to each other.
In seeking to develop my own view of Being and Place I draw upon a diverse range of sources. I recognise that many authors, perspectives, traditions, and disciplines have some part of the truth, and shed some distinctive light on that truth. Most of all, though, when all of the words have been written and read, I recognise that the main part is left over to human beings as creative agents, even if part of that creativity entails learning to confirm the will to the greater creativity of the universe unfolding around us. It's a big world, but we are active, creative members of it. We play a part in its co-creation. This spells out a philosophical stance that goes beyond the old dualism of disclosure - the idea that the world is based on a pre-ordained harmony which we, though contemplation, discern - and imposure - the praxis-based idea that truth and value are things that creative human agency project upon the objectively meaningless and valueless world. Instead, I advocate the cooperative approach of proposure, recognising a free necessity or necessary freedom, affirming the existence of transcendent standards that it is our responsibility to conform ourselves to. The truth cannot just be passively given, it has to be actively willed, known, and assimilated. Knowledge is both affective and cognitive.
The photo is from Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Another favourite place.
My work from 2016, Being at One, refers to housing the sacred, housing the psyche, and finding a home for ourselves by seeing/making the world around us a sacred place in which to dwell. We are makers and not tools, and the world is our home, and not a storehouse to be raided and ransacked.
"The ignorant man is unfree because he faces a world which is foreign to himself, a world within which he tosses to and fro aimlessly, to which he is related only externally, unable to unite the alien world to himself and to feel at home in it as much as in his home." (Hegel).
My work develops a concept of moral ecology. We are dependent rational and moral beings, dependent upon nature, upon our own nature within, social and biological, as well as nature without. But we possess a degree of moral independence which identifies us as moral beings capable of exercising choice, charging us with a moral duty with respect to others and the world in which we live. And that means we live in interdependence. The question of how human beings live together, assuming and exercising responsibility and responding to others in a commonwealth of life, is my concern in attempting to put ethics, philosophy, politics, ecology, poetry, literature, art etc together.
This photo is of my own home town of St Helens, Merseyside, UK.
I develop a philosophy for living. I like the phrase 'body politic.' I see the world as a living organism. As natural beings we are all incarnate in our bodies. But beyond bodily needs, we have social and psychic needs. We are all incarnate in our places. No doubt, we may lose ourselves and become 'dis-placed', coming to seeing our self-made social world as somehow alien to us. But, physically, we remain connected with place whenever we eat, drink, and breathe. We are all, always, ‘somewhere’. The key question concerns who we are and where we belong. We all need a place to be, a ‘somewhere’ where we do more than exist: a place where we may live and flourish.
That place can be physical. I live in the old industrial town of St Helens, in the metropolitan county of Merseyside. But I also live in a world far beyond such physical boundaries. I am an independent scholar, endless writer, educator, and sometime speaker with a body of work that has drawn attention from people from all four corners of the world. At the same time, I am and have been a supporter of a number of ecological causes and taken an active involvement in politics. In my worldview, politics matters beyond any particular affiliation we may have as the public life in which we complete ourselves as social, rational and moral beings.
But there is more to me than philosophy, books, writing and political engagement and activism. I come from a family of builders, and worked on and off in the building industry for the best part of two decades. (More off than on, those who remember me climbing scaffolding armed with a few books to read in a quiet spot out of sight would say!). I remain a builder. To build is to be, and to be is to build. Martin Heidegger established the association between the German root, buan, ‘to build’ and the cognate, bin, ‘to be’. The old German root of the verb 'to build' denotes both the process of making and of dwelling within. We are what we build. We are all architects and artists of our own lives, but we build with much more than bricks and mortar, just as we create art with more than oil and canvas: we work with more substantial things – soul, values, ideas, and ideals. It is the lives, cultures, values, and norms we embody in the physical that is of lasting value. We build with bricks, we build with books – buildings are stories in stone. At them same time, the secret of good building is to have a good story. We all have a story to share. As we build, so we shall live.
The bedrock of this website is my written work. The material comes from a rich variety of sources reflecting my involvement in the world of politics and practice as well as the world of contemplation and analysis. There are academic books and papers from my time in doctoral research in Manchester, with more academic material deriving from my experiences at other universities. There is plenty of material which stems from my involvement in ecological issues and climate change. Such material may not be academic, but it is vital and alive. And it is with vitality and aliveness that I am most concerned.
I have a page for 'Books' and a page for 'Papers,' where I give links to my work, organised within a rationale which makes clear their place within the whole.
This site also contains a page on 'Posts' that I use to post comments and thoughts, report back on my research, report on the research of others, and refer to books and articles.
Why this Website is called Being and Place.
Developing 'Rational Freedom' as a Social and Ecological Relationism
The purpose of this site is to present my work, worldview, and ethos in a clear and concise manner, to set my diverse writings within an overall view of life so as to make their significance and meaning clear through their interconnection. I am also concerned to extend and entrench my lifelong commitment to the idea of an educational grassroots, which took practical shape in the form of my e-Akademeia initiative. Whilst I have now ended the e-tutoring, I wish to continue to share with others the material, ideas and insights I have gained from a lifetime of continuous action and reflection.
Beginning with my work in economics at Masters level (Industry and Europe 4 volumes) and continuing through my period of doctoral research (Critical Studies in Rational Freedom), I have sought to develop the idea of ‘rational freedom.’ The 'rational' tradition sees freedom as a common endeavour which conceives the freedom of each individual to be conditional upon and co-existent with the freedom of all individuals. I have developed this concept through a close analysis of a number of the key thinkers (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Dante, Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Habermas). This concept does not entail a notion of totalizing reason, enclosing the world in some technocratically controlled nightmare, putting life on ice. The very opposite, in fact. In restoring the connection between reason and freedom, I look to replace the theoretico-elitist model of knowledge, power and politics with an active and thoroughgoing democratisation that emphasises the common moral reason within each and all.
My sources for this conception may, at first, seem bizarre. After all, aren’t Plato, Aristotle et al the origins of the top-down conceptions of philosopher-rulers? I see something more in this 'rational' tradition. I see the possibility of the rule of philosophy. I therefore affirm the rule of reason with its ethical component firmly in place, and with due place given to the warm, affective ties and solidarities that bind individuals together in community, to proximal human relations, and to sympathy, empathy, intuition, emotion, and feeling. The key principle that I take from the conception of 'rational freedom' is the idea that the freedom of each individual and all individuals is interdependent, entailing notions of reciprocity, interaction and solidarity that, within specific social relationships, complement, and even go beyond, the lawful and institutional incarnation of reason and freedom. This view conceives freedom differently from the individualist liberal tradition. The 'rational' concept views freedom as something relational and communal, with freedom conditional upon the quality and intensity of individual connections and interactions.
I would define the concept of 'rational freedom' concisely this way: Human beings are social beings, meaning that individuality and sociality are two essential aspects of the one human nature. Freedom, even personal freedom, is a communal societal freedom which is actualised only through the internal interconnection of individuals within a network of interpersonal relationships. The 'rational' conception, therefore, enjoins us to identify the form or forms of the common life to secure the conditions of collective freedom, and thereby remove the potential of the freedom of some being achieved at the expense of the freedom of others, thus ensuring the unity of the freedom of each and all. The freedom of each individual requires that all individuals be free, and all individuals can only be free in the social context of a moral and political community. It is this communitarian or collective component that is absent in the individualist conceptions of freedom. I have examined this tradition through a number of key thinkers, each embodying freedom in different ways - Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Polis, Aquinas' moral community, Rousseau's Social Contract, Hegel's Sittlichkeit etc. Some emphasise legal bonds, affirming the state as an ethical agency concerned with achieving unity. I extract the 'rational' core of these diverse sources to argue that universality and commonality need to be forged within the social relationships of the everyday lifeworld. This gives rise to an associative civic public (what may also be called the Ecopolis, in light of the biospheric conditions of a flourishing life). But the central thread uniting these diverse thinkers is this, that freedom is achieved through the unity of individuals as against their separation. I therefore affirm that freedom, even personal freedom, is meaningful only within a social and institutional fabric. And a moral fabric, an ethical grounding that is more than subjective choice/value judgement.
The practical restitution of social power from the institutional-systemic sphere abstracted from human life is the realisation of 'rational freedom' as an ethicality, commonality, and universality forged within the social bonds of associative civic space. I therefore conceive the ecological community as the ethico-rational society in which the conditions of the free development of individuals is placed under a conscious common control, a social bond as against the alien bondage of an abstracted lawful-institutional rationality. I therefore argue for the possibility of achieving an internal social-moral coordination as against an external institutional-systemic constraint.
Which begs the question: why 'rational'? Spinoza argued that 'the more man is guided by reason, the more he is free'. We have learned to modify the claims made for reason in light of psychology, biology and ecology. We are, in the words of Alasdair MacIntyre, 'dependent rational animals,' our rationality, sociality, and animality are bound together. None of this, however, severs the connection between reason and freedom, just renders it more complex. My argument here develops the implications of the unity of each and all that is adumbrated above. All individuals lose when the system breaks down. That 'system' is the public life humans require as social beings. System breakdown denotes the collective irrationality that issues from the uncoordinated and overriding pursuit of individual rationality on the part of human agents of varying degrees of power. To achieve the ecologically benign rational society requires that we move from zero sum games - in which the gains of some imply the losses of others - to a non-zero situation - in which all benefit in some way from any gains made, and no-one loses. Confronted by growing environmental threats as the result of incremental individual actions, we are charged with the task of bringing about non-zero sum society or, even better, the positive sum society in which actions proceed to the benefit of all. History is littered with badly governed societies which, instead of realising possibilities for a win-win outcome, have carried on with bad practices until a common ruination is visited upon all. This destructive outcome is as a result of certain particular interests succeeding in institutionalising their power in such a way as to be able to immunise themselves from the sanctions others may pass against them, thus locking society as a whole into practices that bring about a lose-lose outcome for all. The situation is irrational and anti-social, and is against the interests of all, including the rich and powerful themselves. Everybody - the rich and powerful included - loses when the system fails. The problem is that if some specific interests are powerful enough to be able to ignore the sanctions against them, then they can put their immediate particular interest above the long-range common good that benefits each and all. The continuous failure of global environmental negotiations makes clear the extent to which our political life is subject to systemic imperatives deriving from overweening private power. There are too many vested interests pursuing their own ends, divorced from the general interest, thereby subverting the common good that unites all. This demonstrates the extent to which unregulated particular rationality generates a collective irrationality. This is the predicament we find ourselves in politically when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. The 'rational' solution is to build sufficient clusters of co-operators within the system as to make non-cooperation irrational, with sanctions meaning that the particular interests are no longer powerful enough to refuse cooperation. Only through such a coordination of particular interests can we hope to succeed in generating and sustaining a collective rationality at institutional and policy level.
This is the key question of politics. And addressing the growth dynamic of the economy is at the heart of answering it. We live under an economic system that simply must keep expanding monetary values, however destructive that may be with respect to planetary boundaries. Devising institutions so that there is an identity rather than a split between private good and social good is key to restraining the appetites for expansion. This reconstruction of the motivational economy and institutional infrastructure goes to the heart of our economic order. We need to forge social identities and communities of practice that give social content to rational and moral appeals to the common good. The worlds of science and religion are united in making these appeals with respect to achieving a more respectful relation to our earthly home. My argument is that 'Being' requires a 'Place' in which non-zero-sum situations dominate, developing a tendency to generate much more positive sums than negative sums, enhancing tendencies to mutual benefit whilst inhibiting free-riding, exploitation, and parasitism. In a condition of 'Being and Place', individuals flourish together as social beings in being associated within larger and richer webs of interdependence. My 'rational' argument integrates our relative moral independence and our social and natural dependency within an overall human and planetary interdependence. Both organic and social evolution involve the playing of ever-more-numerous, ever-larger, and ever-more-elaborate non-zero-sum games with the potential for generating positive outcomes - or negative - depending on how the game is played. Playing the game well depends fundamentally on the core elements of the tradition of 'rational freedom' I develop - virtues as qualities for successful living, character-construction, modes of conduct, reciprocity, (co)responsiveness, mutuality, solidarity, the ability to see and act in favour of the long-range collective good. The chief limitation of games theory is that it tends to assume the very things that need to be changed - individual assumptions, incentives, and motivations. I seek to change these very things. My conception of 'rational freedom' may be located in the tradition of virtue theory. I develop this as a conception of ecological virtue, placing an emphasis on character, conviction and commitment. I develop the collective moral responsibility we require in terms of a (co)responsiveness on the part of ecologically virtuous citizens. As against elitist notions of an environmental philosopher king, I envision an Ecopolis composed of an active and informed public of eco-citizens.
The constant growth of material I have produced since I obtained my PhD in 2001 represents my continued effort to deepen and enrich my vision of a moral ecology. This vision stresses the relationships between the human community and the natural community and our participation in those relationships as thinking, choosing, acting beings. Ecology as a science concerns natural principles and processes. In addition to these, I ask what it is to be human. We are more than bones and sinews, muscles and blood. We may be nothing without them, but we are far from being everything with only them. I therefore seek to integrate the moral, psychological and, indeed, spiritual dimensions into biological and ecological concerns in order to address the key existential question as to what it means to be a human being on this our earthly home. What does it take to satisfy the hungry and the thirsty? Food and water, most obviously. But people hunger and thirst for so much more than basic material satisfaction. We need to call back the soul. And nourish it. Without food and water, humans can last barely a week or two; without hope in the heart and soul, they cannot survive for any length of time at all.
Here I follow Aristotle and the way he made the soul essential to healthy functioning. Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia is central to my philosophy for living. Eudaimonia is often translated as ‘happiness’ but is better understood as ‘flourishing’, ‘fulfilment’ or ‘well-being’. I argue that morality is a matter of skill and practical knowledge with respect to transcendent standards. The point is that living a good life, which I take to be a life in an ecological society, is a matter of integrating 'knowing how', 'knowing that' and 'knowing why'. There is such a thing as moral truth, and 'knowing that' is important in mooring our thoughts, actions, decisions and beliefs in truth-claims concerning right and wrong, good and bad. Such things are neither relative nor conditional upon assertions of power or what ‘works’. At the same time, ethics is a matter of practical reason, and practical reasoning is involved in enabling us to determine the shape and character of the good life, learning how to conform the will to ultimate reality.
I argue that human beings are embodied rational creatures. I argue for embodiment and embededness. I think that eudaimonia is to be sought in the intersection of the true, the good, and the beautiful, the three transcendentals. What matters is how we can make truth-claims appetitive and affective. I emphasise the self-organising properties of the animated universe, showing how meaning, agency, values, purpose, and consciousness emerge within the ceaselessly creative universe. I also argue for the orienting and enthusing properties of the transcendent. I believe that Plato pointed us in the right direction when he argued that the true, the good and the beautiful go together. There is more to the world than fact. Science is now talking the language of ethics and the good life. And I position my own work in relation to this developing field, sharing its concern that human beings should come to be at home in the living universe (with the rider that life continues after physical death ...) I am developing a comprehensive vision of a moral ecology in my work. The central theme of my research concerns the connection of place and identity through the creation of forms of life which enable human and planetary flourishing in unison.
Laguna Bay, California.
Being and Place is my answer to the ‘so what?’ question. Books and learning, knowledge and reason, progress and enlightenment – for what end? 'Formerly’, Einstein argued, 'one had perfect aims but imperfect means. Today we have perfect means and tremendous possibilities but confused goals' (Einstein quoted in Roger Garaudy The Alternative Future 1975:39). I am concerned with ends. To the Platonic Trinity of the True, the Good and the Beautiful I am concerned to add the useful. Of anything, I ask, ‘what use is it?’ Not in some crude, instrumental sense, which is merely to reproduce the pathos of means being enlarged to the status of ends, displacing genuine ends, the pathos which characterises the modern world. By ‘what use is it?’, I mean to ask of anything ‘what good is it?’, what good does it serve? Does it quench our thirst for social and environmental justice? Does it satisfy our hunger for meaning? Does it restore wholeness to that which has been fragmented? Does it heal the broken? Does it satisfy the needy? Does it contribute to the insurgency of life? Does it allow or enable us to flourish well? Those questions run through my whole work, whatever the subject matter.
This is not philosophy as some abstruse and arcane pursuit. It remains no less vital for that. For Wittgenstein, the modern preoccupation with epistemology represents a distortion of philosophy. Past philosophy was much more concerned with ontology. We may argue over metaphysics here, whether philosophical conceptions of ‘being’ have rendered something alive and moving static and immobile. But we are back on the right lines. I see being, doing, and knowing as active, ongoing, and interrelated. And that view will explain why someone like Aquinas, who was more concerned with being and whose epistemological interests were comparatively slight, finds a place alongside the praxis philosophers of the modern age. This website gives me an opportunity to establish the connections in my work that are far from apparent at first or second reading.
The Penrhos Feilw Standing Stones on Holy Island, Anglesey, Wales, dating from the bronze age. I try to visit every year. I love Wales, a land wedded to the mist, rain, and wind, where land, sea, and sky converge to form the one dreamscape.
There is a consistency of theme and purpose and principle in this body of work. A philosopher I much admire is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In his final years, Rousseau insisted upon the essential unity of his work. He was prepared to admit that his arguments ‘might not be true’, and might even be ‘false’, but he insisted that they formed an ‘interconnected system’ which was ‘in no way contradictory’. Rousseau proceeded to identify the unifying principle behind his thought with the constant purpose which inspired it: the development of ‘a doctrine which, being as sound as it was simple ... was aimed only at the happiness of the human race’.
And that will serve as the unifying thread and purpose of my own work, a genuine happiness defined in the eudaimonistic sense of flourishing, creative self-realisation, the realisation of healthy potentialities and their organisation and exercise as social powers. Developing a moral ecology is like weaving a tapestry, you need to understand how each strand connects with the other strands and how they are all interconnected within the whole. And I mean understand. Assertions of nature’s web of life are not enough. These connections exist and would continue to exist, whether we were aware of them or not. I seek to combine the alive, the active, and the aware. We need to develop an awareness of the aliveness of life for this reason: we do not just fit our environments but are beings capable of transforming the environment to fit our ever-developing natures. We need to know about the interconnections that are crucial to the continuation of life. Hence my reference to a moral ecology, something which is quite distinct from a quasi-scientific ethical naturalism. We need to see ourselves and know ourselves and our place in a world we have in part created. The ecological principles of the interrelatedness of all things concern life itself, not just in some physical sense concerning reproduction and survival. Many biologists will claim life is just about survival and nothing else. There is nothing other than that bottom line, the imperative to stay in the game or be eliminated. And the point of the game? There is none other than survival. The ‘so what?’ question returns. Survival for what? Survival for the sake of survival … There is nothing in this that addresses what it is to be human, nothing that enthuses and inspires. It is like playing a game of football without goal-posts at either end of the pitch. At some point, somewhat will ask what the point of all this effort is, and with the revelation that there is no point all effort will cease. I much prefer Bruce Lipton’s argument in The Biology of Belief : it is not the ‘survival of the fittest’ that matters, but ‘the survival of the most loving.’
Philia, the age old political problem of how discrete individuals can come to live together in peace and amity, returns to centre stage. My work on ‘rational freedom’ is about friendship, love and consciousness, and how the world of theoretical reason and scientific knowledge can be integrated within such practical concerns as politics, ethics, ecology and economics as to embody and embed the norms, truths and ideals of philosophy in the everyday lifeworld. Should we achieve this, we would no longer need the mythical figure of lawgiver or ‘philosopher-ruler’. The role of the philosopher is not to tell people what they ought to do and say, but to goad them into using their innate abilities so that reason - as defined above - should come to rule. The world becomes philosophical to the extent that philosophy becomes worldly. More than that, all men and women become philosophers. Philosophy is the love of wisdom and all are called to be wise. It follows that all men and women are called to philosophize so as to give expression to something that is integral to their being. Kant referred to the 'common moral reason' of human beings whilst Descartes called reason 'mankind's most equally distributed endowment'. There are no inherent differences between human beings when it comes to judging between true and false, right and wrong. My understanding of the 'rational' tradition subverts all elitist relations and graded hierarchies of beings and bodies and, further, opens up reason to emotion, intuition, feeling and, indeed, to social ontology and ecology. Intelligence is something not confined within the mind but is something interrelational, something out there in the world linking us together in a conscious web or net. Philosophy can, of course, be difficult, technical, and abstract. For me, the key is intelligibility and accessibility, a reason that is within the range of all men and women who are prepared to think critically and consciously, who are prepared to examine their lives and achieve self-knowledge. Socrates didn't just bring philosophy back down to earth, he brought it to real people in the marketplace: he practised a public philosophy. In his dialogues Socrates argued with soldiers, playboys, and sophists. He was a soldier himself, and a stone mason. All these kinds of people understood philosophy, and Socrates had them practising it, philosophizing. I just don't see this philosophizing as some purely intellectual process or game to establish a correct point but as an integral part of a flourishing life, an ethos in which ways of knowing and ways of being come together. One of my central aims with Being and Place is to challenge, subvert and change the dominant and habitual ways of conceiving the world as a set of inert, inanimate, and lifeless objects. Against that view, I offer a view which sees us as active members of a ceaselessly creative universe, a view which brings mind back to its senses, so much so that we may open our eyes and ears and respond to nature’s sights and sounds once more, and come to experience its creatively from the inside. As a result, we will come alive to the true purpose of our incarnation in this world.
Max Weber depicted modernity in terms of the disenchantment and rationalisation of the world, describing the subjection of all things - human beings included - to a regular, methodical, calculating rationality. This world is bureaucratised, domesticated, and brought under an instrumental and institutional control. In the process, we are trained into seeing the ordered, conventional patterns of life as the only true reality, so much so that we deny our senses and close our minds to other possibilities. This is a cave mechanics, Weber's 'iron cage' as Plato's cave, making prisoners of us all in mistaking shadows for realities. We retreat from our senses into our minds. As a result, knowledge shapes perception so that we come to see only what we already know. We lose the ability to see the real world outside of our minds. We mistake concepts for reality and fall victim to misplaced concreteness; this is a bogus form of animism that bears no relation to what is actually out there. We make this mistake because we are conceptualising the world from the outside rather than participating within the animated, purposeful world with our senses. I argue for a sensible transcendence, something more than an immediate sensualism chained to the imperatives of natural necessity.
The 'reason' I argue for is very particular. By challenging the conceptually determined perception of the world, we are brought back to our senses so as to be able to start truly seeing, perceiving, looking at the world as it is, actively experiencing it. Our mind and senses are in unison as we engage in a continuous dialogue with things. My Socratic dialogues are concerned with more than the men of the city, but take place in communion with all other beings and bodies in the more-than-human world, in a spirit of conviviality and in acts of solidary exchange. Such enchantment is predicated upon our experiencing the world as a living organism, participating in the aliveness of life, being active and aware, in communion with the world and all its elements. Such reason is no longer the product of the disembodied mind walled up in a conceptual world; and it is all the more rational for that.