‘Philosophy Is a Form of Rational Activity’
Viktor Gorbatov, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy Department of Ontology, Logics and Theory of Knowledge, is, according to the students of the Faculties of Economics and Psychology, one of the best teachers who conducts seminars. In an interview he gave to the HSE News Service he spoke about the role of philosophy in modern life.
— You are a lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy, but have been voted one of the best teachers at the Faculty of Economics…
— I am one of the lecturers who work ‘for export’. Our Faculty of Philosophy is small, and we don’t have the capacity to teach many large courses. We have eminent professors, who lecture in-depth on fundamental questions for philosophy students. But I am one of the cohorts whose job is to keep philosophy’s profile high at other faculties. And it’s very important, too. I lecture in logic and general philosophy at the Faculties of Economics, Psychology, Management, and History. I try to design the philosophy course as problem-oriented and relevant to the students’ their specific areas of study.
— In your view, how can philosophy help, say, an economics student?
— It ’s hard to answer in a couple of words, but in short, philosophy, as well as logic, is present in any theory, be it an economic theory or a historical concept. Philosophy can prompt a student to carry out research. It’s usually more interesting to ponder on, think about and watch phenomena if you see philosophical aspects in your research.
— Is it possible to approach philosophical works as you would approach fiction: some of it you like, and continue re-reading, and other things you don’t like, you just read them and forget about them?
— This idea is widespread, but I strongly object it. It’s really destructive for philosophy itself. Of course, we can’t treat philosophy as an exact science, but it should always involve certain ideals of rigorous thinking. That’s what makes it different from literature. Philosophical language is sometimes full of metaphors… But philosophy cannot exist on metaphors alone: it’s a form of rational activity, where arguments and validity, clarity and discipline are more important than eloquence.
— Over the last 15-20 years we have often heard that the humanities are in crisis. Do you agree with this? How does philosophy look compared with other human sciences?
— I would be very careful in characterizing philosophy as a human science, since it has major general scientific potential. Speaking about the humanities, in my view, they are not only not in decline, but have a brilliant future. As early as in the mid-20th century, C.P. Snow tried to contrast the two cultures – the sciences and the humanities. He tried to prove that they are basically incompatible, that they have no common language. We’ve all moved on from that view now. A modern human scientist will not turn his nose up at game theory; he’ll try to master the technical tools of exact sciences with attention and interest, in order to express his humanitarian thoughts in this language. And natural scientists have put aside their former contempt for the humanities.
In the humanities we more often set metaquestions about limits and frameworks, within which something is possible, and beyond which it is impossible or pointless. And the ability to see our own beginnings is more a feature of a humanities approach, than the natural scientists’, as they are often engulfed in the search for specific narrow results and do not see the bigger picture. That’s why I’m very optimistic about the future of the humanities, though they should grow up and overcome their superiority complex towards natural scientists.
Alina Pertseva, who earned her PhD in Philosophy from the Doctoral School of Philosophy at HSE in 2017, defended her dissertation at two universities at once — HSE and the University of Paris VIII. In an interview with the HSE news service, Pertseva discussed how she managed to do this and how the Russian and French approaches to research differ.
HSE Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Aaron James Wendland, recently launched a popular philosophy column in a prominent British Magazine: The New Statesman. In this interview, we ask Aaron about his research interests, his experience at HSE, and the rationale behind his new column on popular philosophy.
International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue was established at HSE in 2017 with the purpose of showcasing the Russian philosophy, literature and art, and focusing on its universal spiritual significance for the fate of Europe and Russia. HSE News Service has talked to Leonid Luks, Academic Supervisor of the laboratory, about the place of Russian culture in the world and the research the laboratory is undertaking.
In 2017, Sean Winkler joined the School of Philosophy as a research fellow. Originally from Chino Hills, California, he holds an undergraduate and Master’s degree in philosophy from Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, California), as well as a Master’s degree and PhD from KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium), where his dissertation focused on the work of 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. In his role as a postdoctoral research fellow for the School of Philosophy at HSE, Winkler specializes in the study of early modern philosophy. Besides early modern thought, his interests span from 20th-century French continental philosophy, to critical theory, to Daoism and to philosophy of science.
Mikhail Blinkin is one of Russia’s leading experts in urbanism, city planning, and urban transport. He has headed the HSE Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies since 2011 and has been HSE Tenured Professor since 2013. In 2017, Mikhail Blinkin was the recipient of an HSE Honour Award 1st Class, as well as the Golden HSE award for Best Expert.
On November 27, the HSE Academic Council held an awards ceremony dedicated to the university’s 25th anniversary. The meeting saw the participation of representatives of the Russian President, members of government, and members of the Russian Federal Assembly. Governmental awards were given to a number of HSE employees for their tremendous accomplishments.
On September 1, 2017, Sean Winkler joined the School of Philosophy as a research fellow for one year. Originally from Chino Hills, California, he holds an undergraduate and Master’s degree in philosophy from Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, California), as well as a Master’s degree and PhD from KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium).
It was a class in cultural evolution during his second year as an undergraduate at Tufts University that caused Brian McLoone to become hooked on philosophy. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, he went on to complete his PhD in philosophy of biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2016. He will be joining the HSE School of Philosophy as an Assistant Professor in early September.