Conf. Guide: Academic
Uil met bril en boeken, Cornelis Bloemaert (II), c. 1625
“Seizing an Alternative” Conference Guide for Academics
This conference is not for academics who are content with the present state of affairs in academia in which one’s professional goal is to measure well by the standards of a guild. These standards ignore questions of helpfulness in the actual growth of students and relevance to the real needs of the world.
But the conference should be of keen interest to those teachers who have been concerned that in a time of desperate crisis, the vast majority of so-called “education” proceeds as if the only matter of importance was the production of value-free scholarship and proper credentialing for service to the economy that is destroying the ecosystem.
Some who are uncomfortable in devoting themselves to these questionable goals feel that there is no alternative. One purpose of this conference is to show that there is an alternative. Just skim through the topics to which these tracks are dedicated. Are they worthy of serious consideration? Could educators deal with them? Are they now appropriately considered in our value-free research universities?
I am certainly not suggesting that a university curriculum should copy the structure of this three-day conference! But I do claim that a comparison of the two shows both that the present curriculum is largely irrelevant to the important questions faced by individuals and by humanity as a whole, and that a study of these questions is not only possible but also desirable. There is no reason that higher education could not be organized around urgent questions. No reason, that is, except inertia and commitment to the seventeenth-century metaphysics of Rene Descartes and the eighteenth-century modification by Immanuel Kant.
The organizers of this conference have been liberated from the thought of these earlier giants by the work of a twentieth-century giant, Alfred North Whitehead. If one is stuck in the ruts of value-free research because of commitment to the earlier philosophers, we recommend direct study of Whitehead. If one has no personal commitment to these philosophers, then one can just ignore them and tackle important questions with common sense and general learning.
For the former group, the conference offers an introductory course on Whitehead by two master teachers. Section II provides opportunities to learn about how Whitehead’s thought relates to contemporary analytic philosophy and contemporary continental philosophy, and also how it plays out in ethics and in philosophy of religion.
For those who think that the natural sciences show that it is necessary to accept the Cartesian/Kantian view of nature, we offer Section IV, titled “Reenvisioning Nature; Reenvisioning Science,” to show that the success of that view of nature in advancing science in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has been followed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by discovery of severe limitations.
Some may want to understand how they have been socialized into the view of nature that is supporting an educational system and cultural practice that have profoundly damaged us as persons and are now destroying the life-support systems of the planet. For them we offer Section V, on “Ecological Civilization.”
I am sure that many academics want something more than to gain status in a guild. Most have goals in life that express concern for the future of the life system on this planet. I am confident that real educators can find something helpful in these offerings.