October 31, 2010

Vattimo on philosophy and the edifying


Naturally, if philosophy does not bracket science and all its results and achievements and consequences for existence, but does not regard itself as science either, philosophical practice has some explaining to do: just what is it then? My own response is that philosophy is a discourse more edifying than demonstrative, it is oriented more toward the edification of humanity than toward enhanced formal comprehension and advancement in knowledge. Edifying doesn't mean antitheoretical, it doesn't mean there is not a progressive acquisition of knowledge during the edification of oneself and humanity. Rather, it means that that isn't the sole or overriding objective. The "edifying," according to Kierkegaard, is the terrible, the disquieting, and under certain conditions, the sublime (i.e., the negative, which for him means the perception of one's own finiteness); at the same time, it is that which ameliorates and constructs. So it is not without its theoretical or cognitive side, but it is also something more, and something different.

- Gianni Vattimo, The Responsibility of the Philosopher


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