November 29, 2007

The Public Sphere

arton3436.jpgThe philosopher Jurgen Habermas, in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1991), asserted that deliberation itself must be the foundation for a consummately open and participatory society. Habermas said citizens must continually and voluntarily come together to exchange perspectives on matters of mutual political interest. Habermas points to the flourishing public life during a segment of 17th- and 18th-century Europe as the ideal paradigm for such gatherings, and believes we must replicate it. He further maintains that the exchanges that take place must have rules of engagement: that there must be civil discourse coupled with discursive reasoning, and that this should be devoid of emotion and spectacle.

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October 29, 2007


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for socrates.jpgThe New York Times continues to run a series of in-depth articles on Hillary Clinton, not just because she is a U.S. Senator from its fair state, but clearly because it is has an inkling she may well be our next president. The most recent, an October 26, 2007 Times article on Hillary Clinton's management practices, referred frequently to her attachment to "process" (and for some reason, the reporter typically puts this word in quotes when referring to it - as if it is so foreign, so unfamiliar, that we can only become attuned to it if he does so.) Here are the mentions of process (or should I say, "process"): 

1) It is indeed likely that a Hillary Clinton White House would be more punctual, precise and process-oriented than her husband's.

2) In the White House, Mrs. Clinton often sat silently for long stretches during strategy sessions that could spiral into long-winded free-for-alls. She would grind her elbows into the table, then let fly.
"If she felt a discussion was being organized in a haphazard way, she would not hesitate to challenge the process and say, 'What are we doing here?'" Mr. Panetta said.

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October 26, 2007

Community of Process

Thumbnail image for socrates.jpgI'm still jazzed from the Whitman Institute's first ever retreat comprising all the organizations it funds. It was great to meet the inspiring people who founded these seemingly disparate groups. It didn't take long for me to come to the notion that we all were part of what I'd call a greater "community of process".

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August 29, 2007

The Socratic Tradition - Christopher Phillips

Thumbnail image for socrates.jpgAn array of academic courses today center on Socratic inquiry, and a number of them include in their syllabi one or both of my first two books, Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, and Six Questions of Socrates: A Modern-Day Journey of Discovery through World Philosophy, which relate my experiences of bringing Socratic discourse to cultures around the globe in venues ranging from prisons to plazas, libraries to schools, nursing homes to churches.

Such courses are offered by philosophy, education, humanities and communications departments. They aim to develop transferable skills such as critical investigation, and focus on the role of Socratic questioning in thinking, teaching and learning as a means for students to become more autonomous thinkers and doers. Such syllabi generally fail, however, adequately to make the critical connection with the ultimate and original end of Socratic inquiry, namely fomenting an evolving deliberative democracy.

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