How Cultures Think, with Julian Baggini

This week, we speak with Dr. Julian Baggini about how cultures go about thinking. Western philosophy assumes it is universal, but the world’s other philosophical traditions are very different and just as useful.

S2 E2: How Cultures Think

“By gaining greater knowledge of how others think, we can become less certain of the knowledge we think we have, which is always the first step to greater understanding”

It goes without saying that the way we think is embedded in our own time and culture. The same is true even of Philosophers: our ‘professional’ thinkers.

Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks is an exploration of the world’s non-Western philosophical traditions (China, Japan, India, Islam and the oral traditions of Africa and elsewhere) - how they differ, what they can teach us.

Nothing deflates western philosophy’s claims to universalism - its “transcendental pretention” - so much as seeing how deeply embedded it is in time and place.

Baggini looks at four epistemological areas across each philosophical tradition: - How we think we know - How we understand the workings of the world - How we understand ourselves in the world - What we see as the ‘Good Life’

From the Confucian ideal of Harmony, the interplay of Falsafa and Kalam in the Islamic world, the Indian principle of Pratyaksa and ideas around karma in numerous cosmologies, listen to Julian and Turi discuss how very differently we all see the world:

  • Truth-seeking vs Way Seeking
  • Progress vs Tradition
  • Freedom vs Harmony
  • Intimacy vs Integrity

And how the way we see the world impacts what we do to it - from the development of empirical science to the rise of capitalism, populism and today’s atomised society.

“An insider is like a fish in a fishbowl,” said Xu Zhiyuan, “unable to see the exact shape of its surroundings even though those surroundings are perfectly clear to everyone else.” Come take a step outside.

Read the Full Transcript

Julian Baggini

Dr. Julian Baggini is a philosopher, journalist and the author of over 20 books about philosophy written for a general audience. He is co-founder of The Philosophers’ Magazine, and a patron of Humanists UK

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 10:23 UTC