1. Why do you call yourself a citizen philosopher?

Because that seems to be the best description for my own perspective. I am committed to a type of philosophy which is not the same as the formats operative in contemporary academic philosophy. This does not mean that I am opposed to the latter, and there may well be points of convergence here and there, for example, a recognition of the need for due analysis and reasoning. However, academic philosophy is so often bewildering to the public, who frequently tend to regard that activity as an aloof and impractical pursuit. At one extreme are those thinkers who incline to relativism and nihilism. Some of them find no ultimate meaning in anything.

I think that it is partly because of these drawbacks, and also because of a declining role of the Christian Church in modern society, that there has been so much popular interest in subjects like occultism and the hybrid “mind, body, spirit” trend celebrated in bookshops and alternative organisations. People so often do want a sense of meaning, and they are surely entitled to that, but they get fed with the license of consumerism and contrivance.

There are many things at issue in this complex situation, and academic philosophy is not answering the questions satisfactorily, if at all. Nor is the so-called new age of spiritual vision that has been aired in the alternative media. Nor is the Christian Church. Nor are the politicians and bureaucrats penetrating the surface of routine to what is often most needed but which instead gets neglected.

"After a long period of relative calm, there has been a dramatic upsurge in philosophical interest in citizenship since the early 1990s" (Dominique Leydet, Citizenship, Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). Of course, that upsurge relates to the academic sector, which very often mounts a cordon against citizen views. Not so many generations ago, citizenship was restricted to males, as in the Encyclopédie (1753) of Diderot and D'Alembert. Today, an unprivileged male citizen still has no standing in the academic quarter, especially in the absence of qualifications. The unofficial caste system is formidable, and injurious to citizen wellbeing.

Such an eminent academic as Jurgen Habermas has been described as a "philosopher-citizen" (Charles Taylor, The philosopher-citizen, 2009). Given his background of prestige professorships, this equation is not immediately decipherable to unprivileged citizens. Habermas is also described as a public intellectual, and he is notable in that role. I merely wish to point out here that a philosopher citizen (or citizen philosopher), without establishment credentials, is virtually a ghost in the prestige sectors. The rigorous citizen philosopher is independent from academe, is found among the common people, and is not a member of the career status elite. This category is not generally recognised by the academic salaried vocation (however, liberal academics do exist).

"We can almost fear that the public intellectual is an endangered species" (Taylor, art. cit.). Fashionable causes and narrow specialism are here viewed as hazards. There are certainly many distracting fashions, including suppressive Wikipedia trolls who spell the death of intellectuality for citizens.

In stating my disposition to a citizen philosophy, one of the factors I am indicating is independence from establishment modes, but a simultaneous avoidance of the “alternative” confusion that is now widespread. Viable philosophy is a discipline of the mind (and body), and great care has to be taken in distinguishing such due priorities from entertainments, superstition, cults, commercial mysticism, relativism, and nihilism.

In 1984, and while studying at Cambridge University Library, I wrote Meaning in Anthropos: Anthropography as an interdisciplinary science of culture (1991). That preliminary annotated book was self-published, as I knew there would be no commercial interest in such a non-commercial work, and an academic publisher being out of the question on grounds of exclusivist protocol. I have since prudently retreated to the "philosophy of culture" category, as the academic world prefers an elitist conception of science. Yet the fact is that my book was conceived as a citizen interdisciplinary science in the face of philosophical relativism, cultural materialism, new age illiteracy, and the academic caste system. The conceptualism has since expanded, not being limited to any doctrinaire format. See also Philosophical Anthropography (2011).

On this website, my citizen version of philosophy (and anthropography) includes analysis of social problems such as crime and yob delinquency (article 5 on this site), and also the related hazard of drug use (article 11). I have for long been concerned with ecological matters (article 3 on this site). In some backward sectors, the problem of commercial mysticism is appended to ecological interests (article 13), and there are related drawbacks in this “new spirituality” zone that require attention (articles 10 and 12).

I also endeavour to survey data concerning the history of religion and philosophy (articles 14-16 and 18-21). The obverse dimension to that data is the cult question, which can comprise a social problem (articles 22-24). In addition, I have ventured a number of studies that investigate well known and lesser known entities in these directions. One of my longest web articles is Desert Fathers and Christian Philosophy. The Islamic sector is represented by, for instance, Suhrawardi and Ishraqi Philosophy, and in ethnic religious terms, by Hazrat Babajan, a female Pathan Sufi. Zoroastrianism is more obscure, but nonetheless relevant in terms of religious minorities, e.g., the Irani Zoroastrian factor.

The popular figures of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky relate to Western occultism, according to some academics, and this is a field in which caution is required. Merits and demerits must be carefully assessed. Sometimes classified as an occultist is Paul Brunton, whose role as a spurious academic is disconcerting. In Western philosophy, the figure of Eric Voegelin is controversial in relation to modernity, while Richard Tarnas has a radical alternativist repute. Spinoza has been diversely portrayed, his causative influence upon the Enlightenment being one argument. The relatively establishment figure of Rene Descartes is basic to the Scientific Revolution, and also underpins the debate about laboratory vivisection practices.

See further Aspects of Citizen Philosophy (2009).

 

Copyright © 2013 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved. Page uploaded September 2008, last modified April 2013.