Michael Hampe

The Teachings of Philosophy - A Critique

(German title: Die Lehren der Philosophie)
ca. 400 pages
Michael Hampe
Foto: Michael Hampe
© Jürgen Bauer
Michael Hampe, born 1961, is Professor for Philosophy at the ETH Zürich.

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English world rights (Chicago UP), Russia (Logos)


What does philosophy want? Michael Hampe answers: it wants to teach and to educate. To this end it formulates assertions. Aristotle asserted that the world was eternal; Thomas Aquinas that it had been created. Descartes asserted that there were only two substances; Spinoza that there was just one. And so on. But what does it really mean to set out to teach others? And didn’t Socrates already question this project?

Hampe explores the complex relationship between philosophy, education, and narrative, developing a Socratically-inspired critique of philosophical doctrines. As a project, formulating assertions, he argues, can be meaningful only if you can also offer explanations. But explaining is something different than winning supporters for your assertions. It means telling a story: about processes of self-discovery – about the lives of those who have had some sort of epiphany. In this sense, Sophocles and Proust were both philosophers. And education does not mean getting people to make new assertions about the world, but rather to get them to give an account of it and to criticise the conditions there. John Dewey knew that.

The Teachings of Philosophy is an introduction, a critique, and a utopia all rolled into one. Hampe shows how and why philosophy became what it is today: an academic career programme, a toothless tiger in the jungle of the world. And what it could be (again), if it would only turn its back on its pretentions to dogma: a privileged space for reflecting on the human condition.