2. What is Philosophy? – Perennial Questions

In this course, you will become acquainted with some of the most important themes of philosophy and their treatment in primary philosophic sources. Philosophers almost never really solve societal, political, or ethical problems, nor do they offer clear-cut answers to questions. However, they do search for different angles to think about such questions, and they analyse the presuppositions of questions. By doing so, they either dismantle naïve opinions or transform them into serious problems, and they turn shallow questions into thoughtful ones. Great philosophers were very successful in putting the right questions on the agenda.

So, the great themes of philosophy are perennial questions – i.e. those that never receive final answers and always remain inescapably worthwhile being asked. Verbally, these questions are fairly simple. Such as: “What is justice?”, “What is happiness?”, “What is truth?”, “What is man?”, “What is a good life?”, “What is time?”, “What is bodily existence?”… Once such questions force you to reflect on them with the aid of guides like Socrates, Kant, or Kierkegaard, you start doing philosophy.

This course will take place in the fourth quartile of the first year. René Munnik and Jan Hoogland will give it. Every class on Wednesday is intended as a seminar for information, reading suggestions and study guidelines, and for discussion with the teacher. Classes on Monday (except the first one) are preparatory group sessions. An extensive study guide will be available at the beginning of the course.

René Munnik graduated in chemistry (1974), theology (1980), and philosophy (1982). In 1987 he defended his PhD thesis on the metaphysics of the mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, entitled De wereld als creatieve voortgang – De ontwikkeling van een totaliteitsgedachte bij A.N. Whitehead.

Since 1987 he teaches philosophy – especially metaphysics, philosophy of science for the humanities, philosophy of culture, and philosophy of religion – at the universities of Nijmegen, Tilburg and Twente. At the moment he is associate professor at Tilburg School of Theology (Tilburg/Utrecht) and he holds the (endowed) Thomas More chair in philosophy at the University of Twente.

After his doctorate, most of his research was devoted to epistemological questions regarding the relationship of natural sciences and the humanities. At the moment, his academic interests concern philosophy of technology and technological mediation, which resulted in his most recent Dutch book –Tijdmachines. Over de technische onderwerping van vergankelijkheid en duur (Klement, 2013).

Jan Hoogland (1959) studied Sociology (bach.) and Philosophy in Rotterdam (Erasmus University). In 1992 he defended his PhD thesis on the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno and his view on the role of metaphysics in modern philosophy: Autonomie en antinomie. Adorno’s ambivalente verhouding tot de metafysica (Autonomy and antinomy. Adorno’s ambivalent relationship to metaphysics) (cum laude). Since 1997 he is holder of the Chair of Christian Philosophy at the University of Twente.

Hoogland has published some books and many articles in books, journals and magazins. Last year he published with Jochem Quartel Levenskunst voor iedereen. With three colleagues he wrote Denken, ontwerpen, maken. Basisboek techniekfilosofie (2007), which recently is published in English: Philosophy of technology. An introduction for technology and business students.

Beside his special chair at the University of Twente, Jan Hoogland is professor in ‘Formative Education’ at Viaa University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle and assistant professor in Public Administration at VU University in Amsterdam.