Title: Philosophical Lecturing as a Philosophical Practice

Authors: Esa Saarinen and Sebastian Slotte

Status: Practical Philosophy, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2003, pp. 7-23.


Keywords: Spoken philosophy, Philosophical lecturing, reflection, philosophy as a performing art

This article suggests that Philosophical lecturing should be conceived as a form of Philosophical Practice. We start with a discussion on the nature of philosophical Practice and the philosophy of Philosophical Practice by examining the contrast between oral philosophy and written philosophy. We argue that a chief reason why lecturing has not been conceived as an instance of Philosophical Practice with potentially enormous impact is the widely held assumption that lecturing amounts to the transmission of knowledge. Our view conceives Philosophical lecturing as a reflection-centered enterprise, with emphasis on enhancing the internal (silent) dialogue of the lecture participant regarding her own life. Philosophical lecturing aims at triggering reflective thinking in the hearer, as opposed to outlining a shining theory or demonstrating the scholarly merits and intellectual brilliance of the lecturer. Theories are levelled down and the status and contribution of the hearers is as prominent as the lecturers are. Style and persuasiveness of the delivery, as well as various performance related parameters, become crucial for the relevant philosophical momentum to take place. Philosophical lecturing is thus viewed as a performing art to the benefit of an examined life. A fresh perspective is opened on to other Philosophical Practices, such as Socratic dialogue and philosophical counselling, with the key additional emphasis on the performing aspects and possibilities of Philosophical lecturing. We link our conception to the ancient view of philosophy as elaborated by Pierre Hadot. The argument is elucidated with descriptions of the senior authorís practice, suggesting that the kind of lecturing we describe is not only a theoretical possibility but can and have been implemented to practice. Examples and feedback excerpts from a lecture series given at the Helsinki University of Technology and an open-to-all two hour lecture at Nokia Mobile Phones, Denmark is provided.