In this powerful re-examination of the purpose and direction of philosophy for the new century O'Hear engages with our most pressing questions. Is there knowledge outside of science? Does religion still have meaning and coherence today? What is beauty and why do so few contemporary artists believe in it? In making a strong case for the relevance of philosophy O'Hear presents a coherent and compelling vision for recovering wisdom in our time.
About the Author
ANTHONY O'HEAR is Weston Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham and Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He is editor of the journal Philosophy andhis publications include Beyond Evolution (Clarendon Press, 1997),Plato's Children (Gordon Square, 2005) and After Progress (Bloomsbury, 1999).
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'It is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.'--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (Section 5). On the final page of his book, Anthony O'Hear, Professor of Philosopy at Bradford Univ., quotes with approval Nietzsche's early aphorism. By claiming that aesthetics is the key to wisdom, Nietzsche--and O'Hear--advance the thesis that 'existence and the world' cannot be justified eternally metaphysically, logically, epistemologically, morally, politically, scientifically, or religiously. O'Hear believes that philosophy during the 20th century, whether the cool reasoning of the Anglo-American tradition or the hyper-charged jargon and rhetoric of the European tradition, has been a dismal failure. The scientism of the former and the nihilism of the latter both end, he believes, in sterility and aridity. The question to which O'Hear's book is primarily addressed is where, in the new century, philosophy ought to go--if it is to throw light on fundamental questions of life and how life should be lived. 'If philosophy is to have a future in the twenty-first century,' he writes, 'it must not sacrifice rigour. But to regain relevance and significance, it must turn away from scientism and cultural nihilism, the philosophical dead-ends of the twentieth century. O'Hear's essays deal with wisdom, the search for meaning, epistemology, the individual and other persons, nature and society, science, aesthetics, religion, death, and the 'promise' (the problem and challenge) of a relevant philosophy. The story is told of a soldier in the American Civil War who, undecided about whether to support the Union or the Confederacy, donned a blue coat and gray trousers--and was shot at by both sides! O'Hear himself stands in such a precarious predicament. Those in the camp of 'scientism' (who make the presumptuous claim that science has all the answers) will criticize him for making 'theistic noises.' Dogmatic theologians (who make the presumptuous claim that religion has all the answers) will criticize him for making 'atheistic noises.' O'Hear points out that the spirit of his book is Aristotelian: Philosophers must seek a golden mean or balance (some would say a compromise) between rationalism and spiritualism. The rigorous pursuit of knowledge, O'Hear believes, should be wedded to the 'religious impulse'--the aesthetic and moral concerns of humanity. 'Something of the Aristotelian promise,' he writes, 'is thus redeemed. We move towards theoria, towards a non-religious form of contemplation.' PHILOSOPHY IN THE NEW CENTURY is a fascinating survey of the contemporary status of philosophy. One could have wished, however, that O'Hear had been clearer in stating his personal positions regarding controversial issues.