Looking for Wisdom is close to launching. So here's a bit about my forthcoming plans for the site, and about the philosophical angle I'll be taking.
It's been a fun couple of months as I've been getting Looking for Wisdom up and running. For the last few weeks, I've been tweaking the site behind the scenes, making sure everything works, and planning a timetable for future content. So I thought I'd take a break from the heavy-lifting, to say something about what I'm up to here, and the approach I'm taking to exploring philosophy.
What's coming up?
I've already got started posting a few Philosopher File entries. From now on (9th November 2020), there will be a new Philosopher File posted every Thursday. You can sign up if you want to get them sent straight to your inbox.
I see the Philosopher Files as a growing resource that will be free to access, and that will introduce you to intriguing, and sometimes unexpected, philosophers and philosophies in nice, bite-sized chunks. It's been huge fun writing the first few, and it's good to be straying outside my own philosophical neighbourhoods to explore other traditions and other voices.
Courses for members
At the beginning of January, I'm launching my first Looking for Wisdom course for paid members. The courses run on a rolling programme, with a new seven-week course every two months. You can join or leave at any time. Find out more on the membership page, where there's also a schedule of courses for 2021.
If you sign up for a course, as well as Philosopher Files, you'll get a philosophy lesson sent direct to your inbox every Monday for the duration of the course. The lessons will explore philosophical ideas, give you links to further resources, and provide a bunch of follow-up questions that you can explore by logging in to the website, where you can discuss with other members and fellow-philosophers.
The topic of the first course, starting January 4th 2021, will be wisdom (why not start with the big questions?) During the course, I will be drawing on a wide diversity of philosophical approaches to ask about what it means to be wise, and how we might go about looking for wisdom.
I'll also send out occasional Members' newsletters, keeping you up with philosophy news and other fun things. All the newsletters will be archived on the site.
Making philosophy (more) interesting
So that's what is happening. But I thought I should also say something about the philosophical and editorial approach I'll be taking. What I'm interested in, above all, is making philosophy (more) interesting. I want Looking for Wisdom to become a site that reflects the true diversity of philosophy across cultures, and the true diversity of philosophical voices. And this means opening up to a more expansive idea of what philosophy is, or what it could be. I want Looking for Wisdom to be a genuine exploration of new ideas — not just for subscribers, visitors and members, but also for me personally!
Philosophy and culture
My starting point is that no culture has the monopoly on wisdom, and that good ideas (as the early African philosopher Ptahhotep pointed out) may be rare like emeralds, but they can be found everywhere. This means that as the site develops, I'm aiming to take as broad a view of philosophy as possible. It also means that along the way, I am hoping to explore philosophy from China and from Greece, from India, Mesoamerica, the Islamic world, and Africa.
Through all this, I'm aiming to dispel the impression that philosophy (or even wisdom) is something that has historically only belonged to a small, privileged subset of humanity. This richness, breadth and diversity not only makes philosophy infinitely more interesting, but it also promises to give a broader sense of the malleability of human experience, and a deeper account of what wisdom is.
Just a quick warning as well: I'll be publishing the Philosopher Files more or less chronologically, starting in the ancient world. But as I go on, I'll be messing with the chronology a bit, so that I can mix things up and introduce philosophers and philosophies from other traditions without the same long textual lineage.
Philosophy and gender
The other obvious blind-spot of most of the canonical philosophical traditions is that of gender. Sometimes philosophy can seem like a dreary procession of serious and high-minded men, parading their Great Thoughts. But philosophy can hardly claim to speak persuasively about what it means to be human if the only voices that are heard are those of men.
So over here on Looking for Wisdom, I'm going to be trying to redress this balance. I've already written some individual philosopher files featuring often-overlooked women philosophers such as Aspasia, Diotima and Gārgī Vācaknavī (forthcoming); and I'm also trying to acknowledge the role of women in the development of male philosophers and their schools (the Pythagoreans, also forthcoming, are a good example).
Work in progress
Back in Ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates went around talking to people who were apparently wise, tying them in knots, and leaving them realising that they were not as wise as they thought they were. And just before they walked off, bewildered, Socrates would often say to them (I'm paraphrasing here), 'Well, anyhow, keep on looking...'
Looking for Wisdom is a project planned in this spirit. The search for wisdom is always a work in progress. And so I'd love recommendations for ways to diversify and enrich things further: if you have any thoughts, get in touch.
Image: Lithograph captioned “Neueste Erfindung einen Luftballon durch Adler zu regieren 1801”, courtesy of Science Institute. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.