Philosophical Intensity and Its Problems

Mon, 08/03/2010 - 21:10 -- Heward Wilkinson

In the philosophy courses I run, I try to open up the deeper layers of what the great philosophers are about, to expose how their work can, and often has, changed the world and changed the deeper strata of how our culture experiences itself. I try not to present philosophy as something like a crossword puzzle, a take it or leave it pastime which does not affect us. I want for people to feel engaged and passionate enough to carve out their own sense of things. I want people to understand the grounds for the convergence between philosophy and psychotherapy, which approaches as the historical process of philosophy gets ever nearer to the 20th century.

But its swings and roundabouts this! The other side of the seesaw is that philosophy touches those ancient existential questions which give us most agony: our need to believe; our difficulties in tolerating other people who differ from us; our competitiveness and tribalism, in one way and another;  our fear of death and what may lie beyond it; our impact as a species on the environment; and so on and so on.  And then we become aware of those vast minds who have engaged with all this over the millenia, and it touches on our awakening sense that these guys create a very powerful force field indeed.

And then it becomes intimidating and overwhelming, and then even Heward, as the mediator of that powerful force field, is perceived as somewhat difficult to dialogue with.

Well I just want to say, anyone can take the plunge. Its not a contest, guys, and we can still have fun, even though we know there are elements in it which are still a struggle, and even though it exposes all our varied lopsidednesses! Go for it!


Submitted by Fiona McSweeney on

Indeed not difficult to dialogue with Heward. Quite the contrary, but those powerful force fields are another dimension that one can find difficult to comment on in the written word.

I, for one, find philosophy like a spinning globe that transverses the intellectual world drawing meaning from ancient words that can be applied through history to modern circumstance. The meaning, in my mind, can be so multidimensional that I struggle to make sense of it. Not withstanding this, I continue to become more captivated by the length, depth and breadth of the subject. We all search for meaning.

Alas, to put words to my confused thoughts is a struggle [although it may come with time] and does not reflect my enjoyment at being exposed to this great subject. Just 'being' with it is an honor.

I look foward to our next session.


Submitted by Tony on

Hi Heward, and the few who appear to be reading this, and I'm only here because Heward urged us to participate in the Forum.

Firstly, I'm not finding it " intimidating and overwhelming" on the Saturday afternoons, and you don't have to (seemingly) aplogise Heward.

But for me online discussion is simply not my thing, I only do face to face (which is why I don't do phone counselling, or online, even with a webcam) and my two finger typing makes it all too slow. This form of communication is not contactful enough for me. And although not much is happening in my life ("Goodness, how sad") I spend too much time on the computer anyway.

So, sorry Heward, I'll just do the Saturdays, thank you for all the effort in setting this up, and of course, having links to preparatory reding is very useful (no promises though).

However, I would say that posting up in the Forum, and on your blog seems to me a mistake, as those interested have to check both websites for discussions.

See you next Saturday