September 7, 2014

Welcome!

I am a psychotherapist, and I also teach philosophy in the Bay Area of San Francisco. I grew up in Bavaria, Germany, and I moved to California in 1988. 

I developed this website to reflect back on my own European tradition, and to bring a philosophical perspective to current events and trends. What are the visions we have for our collective future? How do we balance humanity with technological progress? What is humanity in the first place? What do we mean by “nature,” and how do we relate to the nature around us, as well as to our own nature?

This website combines a blog (my own texts, what you see on the front page) with selected texts from the philosophical, psychological, theological, and literary traditions that influenced me most. You can access the content pages from the menu above.

The focus of my interest is the philosophy of mind. Philosophy is essentially the activity of free thinking, and it culminates in intensive and more or less systematic self-reflection. “Mind” is a very complicated term.  We often use metaphors as first approximations to grasp something, and what “comes to mind” in this approach are analogies like “space,” “dimension,” or “light,” as in “Enlightenment.”  Can the mind be studied, like a science studies its objects? If we think of our own mind or psyche, it is easy to see that the philosophical exploration becomes a life-long journey.

We are also biological creatures, but we can abstract from our own physical existence. We can think about ourselves, and we easily transcend our concrete life through language, art, science, theology, and philosophy – all of these fields are extensions of psychic “space.” The enduring question is always: who are we? what makes us so unique among other biological creatures, and how do we fit into this world? This website brings together many approaches to these questions. I have summarized my own thoughts about the constitution of human existence into a list of philosophical assumptions.

The concept of “philosophy” needs a clarification as well. I use it mostly in a liberating sense: the engagement with philosophical thinking helps us to free ourselves from misconceptions. Philosophy, therefore, subtracts more than it adds; it demolishes false beliefs that are all too common. It should clarify, and not burden us with more knowledge. We live in a period of extraordinary transformations, and our ability to simplify our lives and to adapt to the changes around us becomes key for our well-being. The philosophical process today is  more important than ever. Practically everything has begun to change with increasing speed – even change accelerates. The word “revolution” suddenly has an almost nostalgic flavor. We need to find orientation in the flood of information, and for this reason we return to the perennial questions of philosophy.

Technology is intended to be liberating as well. It creates more opportunities for people to connect across borders and boundaries, and to be productive and creative. We have the opportunity today to make life more of a celebration, rather than crisis and endless struggle for survival. But the ancient ideas about what constitutes a “good life” are not considered enough. We are immersed in a culture of entertainment, which is not about the celebration of live, but about consumerism. The modern lifestyle distracts from the  important questions of human existence.

In this context, philosophy can only be a critical tool. The website contains important texts from Critical Theorists like Marx, Althusser, Fanon, or Adorno. There are sections on feminism, human rights, existentialism, and psychoanalysis. The main concern for the 21st Century is the state of nature and our ecological footprint. You will find relevant texts and useful information here as well.  I have been teaching political philosophy for a number of years; I pursue questions about justice and ethics in the broad context  of contemporary life. I also include a section on theology and mysticism, areas that address the ultimate concerns of life. Finally, real celebration begins when we express ourselves artistically; when we get inspired and focused. For this reason, I have also included some poetry and art.

Please take a look around; I hope you enjoy this website. If you do, please sign up for email notifications for new posts, or connect with me on one of the social networks.

Thank you for visiting!

Jürgen Braungardt

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