This is the fourth installment of my still fairly new series Philosophical Chats. In this episode, I have a conversation with Andrea Sangiacomo who is an associate professor of philosophy at Groningen University. In this conversation, we focus on meditation both as part of philosophical traditions as well as an approach that might be a resourceful factor impacting (academic) philosophy, teaching and academic culture. While Cartesian and Buddhist ideas* form a continuous resource in the background of our discussion, here is a list of themes in case you look for something specific:
- Introduction 0:00
- Meditation and Descartes’ Meditations 2:20
- The notion of experience – and objections against experience as a basis in philosophy 9:00
- Meditation in teaching 21:14
- Why aren’t we already using these insights in education? 37:00
- How can we teach and learn effectively? 44:36
- How can we guide and assess? 52:50
- Where is this approach leading, also in terms of academic culture? 1:03:00
* The opening quotation is from Andrea’s blogpost What can we learn today from Descartes’ Meditations? Here is the passage: “Since last year, I appreciated the text of the Mediations as real meditation, namely, as a way of practicing a meditative kind of philosophy (for lack of better term), a philosophy more concerned with what it means to experience reality in this way or that way, rather than with what a certain set of propositions means.”
He has published four more posts on this topic on the blog of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Thought. They are:
2 thoughts on “Meditation in philosophy. A conversation with Andrea Sangiacomo (podcast)”
Fascinating discussion between colleagues and friends! Lately I have been studying Wilfrid Sellars’ objections to a foundational sort of empiricism (such as phenomenalism). One objection is that a sense datum cannot play any role in a justification or explanation unless it is captured in a judgment; and once we have a judgment, there is a lot of structure that is added that was not supposed to be part of the original sense datum. I am wondering to what extent this Sellarsian objection is also an objection to the aim of meditation, which is to observe thoughts and sensations simply as they are, arising and passing away, without trying to connect them to other judgments and implications.
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Many thanks for your kind words and question! – I think your reference to Sellars is spot-on. I try to bring up this objection at minute 10:00, where I ask whether experience as a point of departure is not disqualified (1) because of its subjectivity and (2) because of its merely supposed “givenness”. I refer to Wittgenstein’s PLA as a source of the second point, but I think that Wittgenstein and Sellars share the same suspicion against sense data.
Now as I see it, Andrea thinks of “experience” more in the sense of an umbrella term for many phenomena and decidedly includes conceptual activity. He also says that, by contrast, the ’empiricist’ notion of experience is highly ‘constructed’. So I think “experience” in Andrea’s understanding escapes the Sellarsian objection.