Living with Uncertainty
Karl Jaspers argues in The Idea of the University that the university is the corporate expression of our will to know. This requires us to adopt certain attitudes that make science possible—but also what he calls an 'ultimate ignorance'. This is not something that is replaced by knowledge but is something that actually grows with knowledge. The point is as old as philosophy and is a variation on the dictum attributed to Socrates, "True wisdom consists in knowing that you do not know." Education, and especially higher education, and even more especially a philosophical education, is therefore a process of becoming comfortable with uncertainty. This is a key graduate attribute identified by the university and is a mark of intellectual maturity. It is the realisation that answers are contestable, that learning is an on-going and limitless conversation, that the conversation must be conducted in a way that maintains the possibility of disagreement, that it means developing one’s intellectual autonomy and independence of mind and adopting a critical and argumentative attitude to the world.
The latter is important for dealing with uncertainty and does not merely reside within the orbit of one’s subject discipline, so students need to be able to recognise where difficult philosophical questions arise outside the academy. Learning to recognise this is thus explicitly addressed as part of the philosophy programme at Hull. In the Level 4 module The Philosophy of Contemporary Thought and Culture, students work together to identify the philosophical question(s) in a news item or a cultural source and report on their findings.
In this workshop, participants will be invited to engage in an exercise of identifying the philosophical question in a piece of source material.