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lundi, 13 avril 2020

Revolution in the Education of the 21st century

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Revolution in the Education of the 21st century

Ex: https://medium.com/@natella.speranskaya/

Kirill Boldyrev’s interview With Natella Speranskaya, a philosopher and founder of the Janus Academy project.

You often write about the crisis of the modern educational system, about the need to return to the roots (in particular, to revive the idea of Paideia, Socratic maieutics, and dialogue). In other words, Your criticism relates to the Western model of education. What can you say about education in the East, and what, in your opinion, are the significant differences between these systems?

— I will allow myself to refer to the book “Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West” by Jin Li, where this issue discussed. The author believes that the main difference between the Western and Eastern (we are talking mainly about the Chinese, based on Confucianism) educational systems is that the first focused on the knowledge of the external world based on reason, and the second — on man’s knowledge of himself based on virtue. I don’t quite agree with that.

If we turn to the origins of the Western educational system, we find that based on the principle of “know thyself” (the inscription on the pediment of the Delphic temple read: Γνῶθι Σεαυτόν). This knowledge was directly connected, on the one hand, with the Mysteries that changed the ontological status of man, and on the other — with the philosophical schools of Antiquity.

In the Middle ages, as well as in the Renaissance, education not supported on the knowledge of the external world based on reason; this principle arose in the educational paradigm of the New time (rationalism of the Descartes, the empiricism of Bacon). And became dominant in the age of Enlightenment, the main idea of which is expressed by Kant: “Have the courage to use your mind.” It is not for nothing that Jin Li cites Faust as the embodiment of an approach to learning and knowledge that was an integral part of the Western world. As for the reliance on virtue, it is difficult to deny that in the Ancient world virtue was the foundation of education and upbringing (Paideia, the idea of kalokagathos, τὸ ἀγαθόν by Plato, the “Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle). Is it worth Recalling the role of virtue in the Christian Middle Ages or the significance of virtu — the main defining category of the humanistic ideal of the individual in the Renaissance?

Thus, what is Jin Li said about the Western education system does not affect its origins (where it, frankly, coincides with the Eastern one), but refers exclusively to the model of education that arose during the Enlightenment. If we turn again to Antiquity, we will have to admit that the works of Ancient Greek thinkers were “spiritual exercises” (Pierre Hadot), aimed at the formation of the soul and mind, at the metamorphosis of the personality, at its transformation. And in the philosophical schools of Antiquity, there was no informing of students (which is typical of modern education), but the only formation. Moreover, I would like to make a bold conclusion: in the epochs, when a person’s worldview had a religious foundation (Antiquity — the Middle ages — the Renaissance), education always meant the formation and transformation of the individual. During the triumph of rationalism and materialism and the advent of a secular worldview, the goals of education change dramatically. It is this educational model that I criticize.

It was in the Age of Enlightenment that intellectual specialization appeared, and various disciplinary knowledge, as noted by Waqas Ahmed in the book “Polymath”, was institutionalized in the form of academic departments at universities. The unprecedented fragmentation of disciplines has led to the fact that polymaths with extensive knowledge in various fields have been pushed to the periphery of social processes, giving way to the now famous specialists of a narrow profile. The Eastern educational system has been more successful in maintaining its roots than the Western one.

One of the primary skills of the XXI century is called the Ability to Learn. Books on to “Learning How to Learn” tell you about the organization of the learning process, as well as provide effective planning methods and skills for conscious learning. One of them is written by Ulrich Boser, a scientific journalist, and researcher in the field of education. Do You attach importance to this skill, and do You focus on it in Your projects?

page_1.jpg— I’m familiar with Boser’s work. The book provides many examples of successful application of various skills of working with information, immersion in a particular problem and the development of new professional competencies. However, I did not have enough perspective in it, which includes methods of teaching polymaths, people who have the ability to create atypical combinations of skills, to combine and synthesize knowledge from different disciplines. The type of thinking and perception of such people is radically different from the thought and understanding of narrow specialists. The methods of learning that polymaths use are not even discussed in the book, but it is these individuals who can significantly enrich the understanding of the idea of “Learning How to Learn.” Although we must admit that we do not often think about how we feel, how we learn as if our mental tools are used unconsciously, automatically; Boser writes that even masters are often lost as soon as it becomes necessary to explain exactly how they acquired such a high degree of skill. In Boser’s book, I did not have enough examples of using non-traditional but efficient forms of learning. I am engaged in this topic not only as a researcher and theorist, but also as a practitioner, so I pay great attention to everything that forms the new educational landscape today.

-For example?

- Already in the Preface, Boser writes about the ineffectiveness of traditional lectures. Many people write about this, giving endless statistics. I will allow myself to dwell on this in more detail. I assure you, it is worth thinking about this not only for people who teach certain disciplines in educational institutions but also for everyone who is related to any institutions where there is at least a small hint of learning (from cultural centers with educational programs to tiny cafes where some lectures are given from time to time).

The academic format of training implies a standard mono-process when there is a lecturer who brings certain information to a passive (I emphasize) audience. It does not take into account that each listener has its type of perception, thinking, speed of information processing, it’s accumulated cultural, philosophical, historical background. And now the lecturer notes with displeasure that the audience one by one turns off their attention and transfers it to gadgets, to each other, to their internal monologue, to the view from the window, etc. And the lecturer doesn’t know how to hold their attention. There is no involvement of listeners in the overall process. They don’t feel part of it. In the “Manifesto for Liberal Education” by Eva Brann emphasizes that lectures are not an integral and mandatory part of humanitarian education (I would not limit myself to the “humanitarian” direction since this is a phenomenon that affects the educational system as a whole). Since the latter is dialogue-oriented by its nature, the student in the learning process becomes not a passive recipient of knowledge, but an active participant in the general search. Brann calls such education “dialectical education,” which should be understood in the key of the “dialectical method of Socrates.”

As someone who occasionally engages in personalized Learning, I invariably choose dialogue, not lecture. As for the broad audience, then this is not a dialogue, but a polylogue (the conversation of many participants). The method remains the same. I call it the “polylogic method.” When you break the old format and make students direct participants, you turn the learning process into a mutual exchange of knowledge, thanks to which participants learn to hear each other, express and argue their point of view, and most importantly — to focus their attention.

Moreover, this is how the intellectual and creative environment forms. Not the sum of atomic individuals who fill the audience to listen to your monologue, but individuals who have come not only to learn but also to teach, not only to take but also to give. When I conceived the JanusAcademy project and planned what courses I would teach there myself, I began to develop these courses based on the “polylogic method.”

What are non-traditional lecture formats You talking about? Which ones do You use yourself?

— First, a Lecture by two teachers. Two teachers give a lecture, interacting both with each other and with the audience — the dialogical communication between lecturers and listeners. The latter find themselves in a socially active position and are involved in a dialogue. All types of non-traditional lectures, which I will briefly describe, are aimed at immersing listeners in the process of constant “co-thinking” with the lecturer (s) and active dialogue. This increases both the level of attention and the level of motivation. A person becomes interested in learning. He is involved in the process.

Second, a Lecture with PLANNED ERRORS. This type of lecture will also be called a “provocation lecture.” Important: this lecture requires a severe level of preparation, a lot of work, the element of improvisation in it is almost excluded. It is written as a “scenario”. The lecturer announces the topic of the lecture and then warns the audience that in the process of reading it, he will make a certain number of deliberate mistakes that students must track down. Naturally, he should prepare these errors in advance and have a list before his eyes. Usually, the number of errors does not exceed ten. At the end of the lecture, students need to name the errors found. Then they reflect on them with the lecturer and give the correct answers.

Third, Lecture-Discussion. I don’t think this type needs any comments. This is a discussion between specialists (which makes it possible to assemble a real interdisciplinary team), with whom the audience actively interacts.

Fourth, a Problematic Lecture. The lecturer does not just give a lecture but creates a problem situation in which the entire audience is involved. Again, it’s a Dialogic form of interaction.

Fifth, the Lecture-Performance. The learning process becomes an artistic act. This type of lecture requires a lot of preparation (including rehearsals). It is the creation of an interdisciplinary field where the union of science and art, music, and mathematics can be realized. There can be a great variety of forms of performative lectures, and it all depends on the imagination of their creators.

Sixth, the lecture-dialogue, which I have already described.

There are other formats, but I have mentioned only the most well-known ones.

How did You come up with the idea to create Your educational project? What task do You set for Janus Academy?

— Revolutionary task. Israeli historian Yuval Harari calls our time the Era of Algorithms, of Big Data. But we must understand that Big Data is not a substitute for Big Ideas. It is the absence of Big Ideas that is the main characteristic of the modern era. Big Ideas always carry transformational potential, imply radical transformations, changes, and those who dare to express them, as a rule, are tested by distrust, skepticism, and accusations of unrealistic fantasies — from a society that is not ready for change. But only these people have had and will have an impact on the course of human history.


Thaddeus Zelinsky

In the Silver age, there was a Big Idea that went down in history as the “Third Renaissance.” For the first time, the famous classical philologist Thaddeus Zelinsky, a Russian by language and birth, a Pole by blood and a Hellenic by spirit, spoke about it. The essence of this idea was that the European world experienced two great Renaissance of Antiquity — the Romanesque Renaissance; this is the XIV-XVI centuries. And the German Renaissance, which occurred in the XVIII-XIX centuries. Zelinsky founded the Union of the Third Renaissance, which included such people as I. Annensky, the Bakhtin brothers, Gustav Shpet, and others. The Third Renaissance was a grandiose project of the Silver age of Russian culture. And I, as a person whose intellectual activity connected with Classical Reception Studies, immediately “inherited” the idea of the Third Renaissance and made it сentral both in my educational mission and the Janus Academy project.

Hence, it became necessary to transform the educational system since it is absurd to talk about a Renaissance in the current circumstances. Observing what is happening in the educational environment in the West, I saw that all the trends that I initially put in the Janus Academy project are now gaining significant influence. A new type of intellectual, which embodies the idea of homo universalis, today openly advocates a polymathic approach to learning, insists on interdisciplinarity, and advocates the revival of the Humanities.

I am one of those who are worried about everything that happens in the educational and cultural spheres. Many years of thinking about the current situation in the field of education, the cultural crisis, the intellectual desert, led me to the idea of creating a new Academy. Of course, I had specific intellectual reference points: the Mouseion at Alexandria, the Platonic Academy, the Platonic Academy of Florence. This idea matured gradually. When I was searching for teachers for Janus Academy, I had to read books by modern researchers continually, scientists, philosophers, specialists in various fields, listen to lectures, watch videos, find interviews, and pass through a massive amount of analyzing information. I was searching for new names to introduce them to the Russian-speaking intellectual space gradually, I followed the processes taking place in different communities of the Western world (philosophical, scientific, artistic, etc.); I compared their experience with the experience of the predecessors, I identified archetypal models based on the paradigm that were created educational institutions, and educational projects are built.

Even at the initial stage of creating the project, I set a goal — to reform the entire educational system.

Not on the scale of one educational institution, but the size of a whole country. My task was to create a kind of laboratory of elite culture. This cultural and educational center would form a new cultural and philosophical paradigm, influence the educational system, discover new names, identified new intellectual and artistic trends of the era, and conduct a constant “dialogue of cultures” (“dialogue of minds”!) with the West and the East.

This project is large-scale, but this does not make it unrealizable. Today, in the face of a terrifying intellectual crisis, the only thing we can and should do is thinking large-scale. Unfortunately, we have begun to forget that education has always been a way of inheriting culture. Changing the educational model, making specific educational trends dominant, we inevitably change the culture.

Your Academy is already being compared to the Eranos Society. Do I understand correctly that You do not want to create a universal online educational platform and are more focused on live learning? You have planned both lecture tours and the formation of communities of polymaths around the project.

— I chose the best of the best for the Academy as Lorenzo de’ Medici had done. Only the most outstanding philosophers, scientists, researchers, cultural, and artistic figures can change the prevailing paradigm and, accordingly, lead to its change. From the very beginning, I decided that learning at the Academy will be Blended, but the emphasis will undoubtedly be on active learning. You are right, the project includes both lecture tours and communities of polymaths. First, it is a community of polymaths-students engaged in project work, interdisciplinary research, the creation of intellectual clubs, creative laboratories, etc. Secondly, the community of polymaths-teachers. For them, the Academy will become a multidisciplinary platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience, a territory for the development of international cooperation. The Academy can itself initiate the creation of temporary communities of interdisciplinary scientists and researchers to solve global problems (environmental problems, demographic crisis, possible AI threats, space exploration, terrorism, social inequality, atmospheric pollution, etc.). Today, in the face of a pandemic, this becomes even more relevant.


Lorenzo de Medici

Janus Academy is

1. Formation of a fundamentally new educational paradigm based on the “union of music and mathematics”, science and art:

- a complex of Humanities disciplines which provide students with fundamental knowledge,

- a STEM complex (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), developing innovative thinking and an ability to collect, analyze, organize, and critically evaluate information.

2. 32 directions.

3. More than 150 author courses forming a unique educational complex that you will not meet in any of the educational institutions. Each teacher receives an individual order to create a course of lectures, which is then taught at the Academy.

4. Outstanding teaching staff (about 200 leading Russian and Western scientists and specialists, researchers, philosophers, artists).

5. Polymathic approach to learning. The formation of a polymath, homo universalis, Renaissance man, generalist.

I understand that when dealing with such a large-scale project, I will have to be patient and decide on a gradual implementation of the idea.

In the educational sphere, I am creating a niche that does not yet exist.

It is an expensive project, and I realize that I need an ambitious patron who is dissatisfied with the modern educational system.

As far as I know, Your Academy is planning rather rare courses? Tell me about it.

— I can only open a few cards. For example, Janus Academy will develop an entire field — Imagination Studies-which will combine several courses at once. This field includes the sociology of the imagination by Gilbert Durand, the research of the imagination of Henry Corbin, the iconological method by Aby Warburg (and his mysterious the Mnemosyne Atlas will be studied in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary way, involving both acting methodology and ancient mnemonic techniques), and the legacy of some members of the legendary community “ERANOS.” In this direction, I am currently developing a powerful program that is not similar to any of the existing in the educational institutions and research centers.

The modern science of imagination appeared in the middle of the 20th century thanks to the efforts of philosophers, theorists, and historians of religion: Gaston Bachelard, Henry Corbin, Mircea Eliade, Charles Baudouin, Charles Moron, Gilbert Durand, etc. Currently, there are more than 40 research laboratories and institutes of imagination in the world, United in a single network (CRI — centers de Recherches sur l’imaginaire), with centers in France, Belgium, Brazil, Israel, Portugal, Spain, Korea, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania.

Also, I plan to launch the course “ARS MEMORIA. Ancient and modern mnemonic techniques”, and has already found three teachers who will not just provide some information (which you can find in The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates), but will provide you with useful tools and pass on new methodologies based on ancient techniques Dating back to Antiquity. I even found a polyglot who created a method of learning languages based on the medieval Ars Memoria and now consults for diplomats.


Of course, I will do my best to promote the Mnemosyne Atlas by Aby Warburg and look for an opportunity to give impetus to Warburgian Studies in Russia. In particular, I plan to find a basis for an interdisciplinary dialogue: iconology of Warburg — acting methodology (Dr. Mischa Twitchin is already developing this direction) — the legacy of Henry Corbin — The Anthropological Structures of the Imaginary by Gilbert Durand. You feel that this is the creation of a new “Eranos,” so the comparison was not accidental?

I was able to find a follower of Joseph Campbell (I’m sure all of you have read or at least heard of his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”), who traveled with him in the late 70s, and then began teaching (including at the C. G. Jung Institute Zürich, Küsnacht), and now developing new approaches to mythological studies. He continues on the path of Campbell. Of course, I want him to teach at the Academy.

An essential place in the program occupied by courses related to new technologies, but this is a separate conversation, and I am not ready for it yet. I opened four cards out of 150, which is not bad.

If You allow me, I will still ask a question about new technologies. It does not directly concern Your project. You translated Tobias Rees’s article, “Why tech companies need philosophers — and how I convinced Google to hire them.” On Syg.ma it has received a large number of views. The modern Western tendency to introduce humanitarians into large business corporations for Russia is somewhat surprising. Do You think that this trend is likely to appear in our country shortly?

Let’s start with the main thing. What does Tobias Rees do? In this article, Tobias Rees demonstrates a revolutionary approach to areas such as Artificial Intelligence and synthetic biology and proposes that they are perceived as philosophical and artistic “laboratories” where new concepts of human, politics, understanding of nature and technology are formed. What was traditionally associated with the main tasks of the Humanities, which were centered on humans, has now moved to the fields of natural and technical sciences. The Humanities no longer answer the question: “What is a human?» More precisely, they stopped answering the question: “What is human in the current world, what is his relationship with nature, with technology?» But it is the question of what it means to be a human being that is fundamental and key today.

Tobias Rees embeds philosophers and artists to the world’s largest corporations, so that they, along with engineers and technologists, form a new idea of the human. It is a method that, in my opinion, can completely transform not only the business sphere but also the educational paradigm. Unfortunately, nothing like this is happening in Russia yet. But I dare hope it is only a matter of time.

https _specials-images.forbesimg.com_imageserve_57e344d04bbe6f24d1f87b3a_0x0.jpg background=000000&cropX1=2&cropX2=720&cropY1=177&cropY2=896.jpgIt is important to note that the studies of Tobias Rees (Transformations of the Human Program) conducte at the Berggruen Institute, which is one of the key think tanks today. I am deeply convinced of this.

Nicholas Berggruen, in my opinion, is the new Lorenzo de’ Medici, who decided to unite all the most outstanding minds of our century. And in this, our goals are similar.

Berggruen attaches great importance to ideas, seeks to bring philosophy back to the center of life, and in fact, creates a Mecca for scientists, one of whom is undoubtedly Tobias Rees. These people are shaping the future. As for Russia, much will depend on whether we will have our own Medici.

jeudi, 27 février 2020

Philosophy as a Way of Life

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Philosophy as a Way of Life

Natella Speranskaya
Ex: https://medium.com

The Philosophy has long ceased to be a way of life, a manner of being, it has become a field of research, a “philosophical speech”; it no longer thinks of the basic principles, it no longer deals with the transformation of thinking, the formation of the mind and soul, the inner transformation of man. The ancient Greek was engaged in philosophy, which was for him an existential choice, a form of life, a way of thinking. And reading the works of Heraclitus, Pherecides, or Empedocles was for him a “spiritual exercises” (Pierre Hadot), a strong-willed personal practice.

The philosophical writings of thinkers of the Hellenistic and Roman era were not aimed at informing, but at forming and transforming the thinking of readers. Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle did not philosophize in front of their students to provide them with as much information as possible, they were engaged exclusively in the formation of minds, opening up to their listeners other ontological levels, other modes of being they pushed them to an internal transformation comparable to that experienced by initiates in the mysteries.

9782253943488-475x500-1.jpgAs Pierre Hadot rightly points out, the texts of early thinkers were not a statement of a certain system (for the first time the idea of systematic philosophy will appear only in the medieval scholar Francisco Suarez), they were “spiritual exercises” aimed at transforming the individual. Philosophy in Antiquity was a mode of existence that required the philosopher to be internally transformed and personally involved in every moment of his life. Spiritual exercises involved the whole Mind. Nevertheless, modern historians of philosophy continue to approach the philosophy of Antiquity with the standards of the Middle Ages and Modern times, i.e. they persist in seeing it as a theoretical and abstract activity, but not as a practice. Philosophy has ceased to be thought of as a way of life. Hadot believed that this was a consequence of the absorption of philosophy by Christianity.

In the scholastics of the Middle Ages, theology and philosophy were at a considerable distance from each other, and philosophy was relegated to the rank of “the Handmaid of Theology”. It was only during the Renaissance that we rediscovered Seneca, Epictetus, and later Marcus Aurelius, and then also Cicero, and Epicureanism, and realized that philosophy can be a way of life. Andre van der Braak also writes that philosophy ceased to be a way of life with the rise of Christianity. He points out that Nietzsche sought to revive the Greek approach to philosophizing as a way of life. We can add that the same goal was pursued by Michel Foucault and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

When we begin to read the texts of ancient thinkers, we should once and for all abandon the habit of applying to them the value system of modernity. “Before that, I considered philosophical texts — whether they are texts of Aristotle, or St. Thomas, or Bergson-as if they are timeless and words always have the same meaning that does not depend on the epoch. I realized that we need to take into account the evolution of thoughts and mentalities over the centuries, “ admits Pierre Hadot. The texts of ancient philosophy and the texts of modern philosophy cannot be perceived in the same way. Hadot believes that the philosophical texts of Antiquity were always intended for limited public and had very specific recipients-either a group of students or a specific follower to whom they were written. For example, according to the testimony of Porphyry, Plotinus wrote his work in response to the questions asked by the audience. The teaching of philosophy for three centuries, that is, from Socrates to the first century, was almost always presented in a question-and-answer scheme. Dialogue as a philosophical genre has almost disappeared today, replaced by systematic treatises. Hadot himself is very skeptical about the possibility of reviving the Dialogic character of ancient philosophy in our days.

PH-philo.jpgTo know that Pierre Hadot means by “spiritual exercises”, need to find out what he invests in the concept of “Spirit.” Spirit he calls what Plotinus called Intellect, Nous, the Highest Reality. Nous is that which is between the One and the plurality. Pierre Hadot: “I would define spiritual exercises as voluntary, personal practices intended to bring about a transformation of the individual, a transformation of the self.” Before to stop the choice on the epithet of “spiritual”, he considered various options: intellectual exercises, ethical exercises, mental exercises, soul exercises, and finally, in his intention to talk about the philosophical tradition in Greco-Roman antiquity, Hadot stopped at «spiritual exercises». Then he explained at length than these spiritual exercises are not exactly (for example, they are not synonymous with “theological” or “religious”, since the latter are no more than a part of them).

If Pierre Hadot had stopped at the adjective “ethical”, he would have had to go into lengthy explanations. How do we interpret the word “ethics”? Commonly it is believed that ethics is a doctrine of morality, of virtue, however, let’s turn our attention to the Greek word ἦθος, ethos (“character”, “disposition”, “temper”), and especially to the famous dictum of Heraclitus: ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων (which can be translated as: “A man’s character is his daimon”). Daimon, i.e. the intermediary between the divine world and the human world (without the negative connotations that appeared in the post-antique era). The word ἦθος also has the meaning of “whereabouts”. And what are these whereabouts, if not the intermediate midpoint where a person and a deity meet/merge and/or collide? The middle, according to Aristotle, is that which always chooses virtue. This is her whereabouts. When the immoralist Nietzsche attacked modern morality, he did it in the name of “virtue in the Renaissance style, virtù, virtue free of moralic acid.”

71sddGtqu+L.jpgAccording to the Hadot, the formation of minds was the basis of the Humanities. Can philosophy be attributed to the Humanities? Andrii Baumeister emphasizes that the term “Humanities” appeared in the Renaissance, in the XV century, but the philosophy is much older. In this case, can philosophy be considered a humanitarian science? The Humanities focus on man, on an anthropocentric understanding of the world, while philosophy can act as a path that leads beyond the “ Human, All Too Human”. (Nietzsche).

The philosopher Peter Kingsley was able to revive the Greek approach to philosophy as a way of life. “As I was drawn back into the world of the Presocratics, as I became absorbed into the ancient Greek texts they had left behind, I soon started discovering something different. These so-called philosophers weren’t theoretical thinkers or speculators, and they were nothing like rationalists in the modern sense. Many of them were immensely powerful spiritual beings. Greek texts which I was soon to realize had been misunderstood and mistranslated for centuries reveal when the distortions and mistaken interpretations are blown away, extraordinary spiritual teachings and extremely potent meditation techniques that can still be applied and practiced nowadays. I practiced them myself and was transformed. I had been brought into direct contact with the lineage and teachings of the ancient Masters who, at the dawn of our civilization, helped shape the Western world and bring our culture into being, “ says Peter Kingsley.

“He recounts a conversation in the Classics Department at UCLA after a talk on Parmenides. A faculty member complained that Kingsley is too dogmatic, that his interpretation is no better than anyone else’s. Kingsley responded: “But you and I are not the same. You read Parmenides so that you can change his meaning to suit yourself. I read Parmenides so that he can change me,” John Bussanich writes.

PH-citadelle.gifThe very concept of “philosophy” should receive a different meaning. Remember Nietzsche’s words: “The very fact that Dionysus is a philosopher, and that therefore Gods also philosophize, seems to be a novelty which is not unensnaring”? It is known that Nietzsche called himself a disciple of the philosopher Dionysus. It is certain that by philosophizing, the man enters into the sphere of the divine. Much earlier, in the Renaissance, Pico della Mirandola had said something similar: “The sacred names of Apollo, if anyone examines their meanings and hidden mysteries, will sufficiently show that that god is no less philosopher than prophet.”

You can only be a philosopher if you are the one who carries out the action, for thought is action. Get rid of the misconception that a philosopher is a boring know-it-all who communicates with the world through endless scientific studies. Similarly, we should banish the other idea that the mindless fuss that most people produce is an action.

Philosophy implies active intervention in an endlessly lasting cosmogonic act by transforming the external world, subtly influencing it by identifying the paradigmatic structures that underlie the universe; philosophy is an attempt to transfer “archetypal images” from mundus imaginalis to the material world, the world of forms.

A philosopher is not a profession, it is impossible to become one. This is a kind of ontological task that a person either implements or allows it to fade away. There is an old beautiful legend about the Angel of Death, whose wings are dotted with countless eyes. When an Angel arrives too early, it only touches the person with its wing and, so that the person does not forget about this meeting, gives him an additional pair of eyes. An eye that looks into pre-being. So, philosophy is such a “gazing” into pre-being. The philosopher receives his second pair of eyes at the same time as the first, but these eyes do not open immediately. Sometimes this requires a teacher, a book, a sudden shock, a collision with death, an experience of the numinous. In ancient times, Mysteries were used for this purpose.


Russian philosopher, cultural scientist, a specialist in Antiquity, curator of Janus Academy.

jeudi, 20 février 2020

The Future Belongs to Polymaths


The Future Belongs to Polymaths

Ex: https://medium.com

I want to start with a little story. Many years ago, I saw a fresco by Raphael. “The School of Athens” is one of the pearls of Renaissance art. On it, the artist depicted immortal images of great thinkers: Heraclitus, Empedocles, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates…and there was among them the only one woman who has always been for me a kind of model, an archetype of female wisdom — Hypatia of Alexandria. Raphael gave her the features of his beloved Margherita Luti. I looked at this collection of great minds of mankind and even then I understood that I knew the one secret. Lorenzo de’ Medici also knew it.


In the XV century, he established the Platonic Academy in Florence, headed by Marsilio Ficino. This Academy brought together outstanding philosophers, artists, architects, sculptors, and poets of the Renaissance. This was the time of the total triumph of a new type of man — homo universalis, a prominent representative of which was Leonardo da Vinci-painter, architect, sculptor, inventor, writer, musician and scientist. The very embodiment of the Union of music and mathematics, science and art. Why did this type of personality disappear today-in an era of deep specialization, and the place of the universal thinker who saw the whole picture of the world was taken by the one who looks at the world through the keyhole of his profession? These are the questions I started asking.

The XXI century presents us with global challenges. We are watching the rapid development of new technologies. But it seems that neither politicians, nor businessmen, nor inventors know the opportunities and risks associated with the development of Artificial Intelligence and biotechnologies. The problems we will soon have to deal with are beyond our comprehension. Fundamental climate changes and the risk of environmental disaster, the growth of the world’s population and migration processes, unknown epidemics and pandemics, unemployment-these are just some of the problems that can radically change our lives. These are the main questions that we have to answer.

But to solve these problems, you need a different type of thinking. As Albert Einstein said, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” To understand these problems, we need a global perspective. But where does the global perspective come from if narrow specialization is imposed everywhere? However, it is not enough today. I told you I knew a secret. It’s time to tell it.

The future belongs to polymaths. The polymaths were the most influential people in the history of mankind. They could create atypical combinations of skills, to combine and synthesize knowledge from different disciplines. Only polymaths can comprehend and respond to the challenges facing man in the XXI century.

How to create conditions for the formation of individuals with polymathic thinking? To do this, it is necessary to transform the entire educational paradigm and create a new educational model. How? We need to unite the best minds of mankind. Lorenzo de ‘Medici had a Big Idea. She inspired me. We live in an era when we need to dare to think on a larger scale. For many years, while developing a project called Janus Academy, I tried to create a matrix of the future educational system that will replace or become a real alternative to the educational model being implemented today.

The modern educational model is focused on the formation of a specialist of a narrow profile who has passed the “school of skills and competencies”, but not the “school of knowledge”. The result is obvious: the skills and competencies acquired today need an immediate upgrade tomorrow because they are outdated. A student enters an endless race by replacing one worn-out part with another. Without a basic knowledge axis, he simply has nowhere to integrate the acquired skills. As a result, we do not get a person who has realized his potential, but a “one-button specialist” with a “passport of competencies”, who adapts flexibly to changing trends. An individual who knows how to use Agile, but knows nothing about the history of civilizations, structural linguistics, world culture, classical and modern art.

Today, education has ceased to be a way of inheriting culture and has become a tool for achieving career success.

However, if we look at the founders of the five largest companies in the world - Bill Gates, Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos - we find that they are all polymaths, universal personalities, but not narrow specialists.

The same universal personalities were Aristotle, Ptolemy, Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, Kepler, Leibniz, Descartes, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin and others.

Leonardo_self.jpgWhen we dream of succeeding in a rapidly changing world, we often forget that the most successful people are polymaths. And gradually, interdisciplinary employees, people with polymathic thinking become one of the most valuable assets.

We are afraid that soon robots will replace us in the workplace and all processes will be automated. The machine will surpass man in his abilities. Of course, it will surpass — if we are talking about the abilities of a narrow specialist. But she would never be able to beat the polymath. Historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto emphasizes: “Specialists can invent gadgets, formulate algorithms and exchange blows. But to transcend experience and change the world, ideas need mental space where influences from all disciplines can mingle alchemically. Those spaces are in polymaths’ brains. To conquer empires of the intellect, you have to exceed your own domain. Classical Greece, Renaissance Italy and Victorian England all revered and rewarded generalists, for whom today universities have little or no space or patience. “

Society abandoned the idea of polymaths after the industrial revolution. As Ellwood Cubberley, was an American educator and a pioneer in the field of educational administration, said in 1898: “Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.”

What problems do polymaths face today, does society accept them, does it allow them to discover their deep potential, apply all their knowledge and skills and be at the center of world processes? In one of the articles I met the opinion that in our society there is a clear rejection of people who lead a polymathic lifestyle. However, it does not get tired of encouraging narrow specialists in every possible way. This is one of the consequences of industrialization: the idea that man is just a mechanism in a huge machine. Moreover, this is the result of the industrialization of consciousness. Because of the reaction of society, many polymaths avoid calling themselves polymaths. Some people start deliberately talking about themselves as specialists, believing that this will help them have a successful career. Others name different functions, depending on the context. Still, others are waiting for an opportunity to demonstrate their many skills, i.e. they are waiting for a “request” from the society itself.

Leonardo da Vinci, the most outstanding example of a polymath, also faced serious problems. Waqas Ahmed, the author of the fundamental study “The Polymath: Unlocking the Power of Human Versatility” says in an interview: “If you look at Leonardo Da Vinci, who’s considered the archetype of the polymath in the Western mind, he faced a lot of adversity. He did not have the socioeconomic status to excel in one field, let alone multiple fields, but he had an innate curiosity and that curiosity overcame any obstacles that he faced in his work environment or in his social environment. And so that curiosity does inevitably build in a kind of fearlessness that you see in many polymaths over history. ( … ) You need to have unfaltering belief in your method to creativity and to progress and you need to be able to deal with the kind of cynicism and skepticism and even envy that you will inevitably face moving forward.”

I face this problem. The question of the nature of my work has always puzzled me. Of course, over time, I had to introduce myself as: “Philosopher, publicist, cultural scientist, a specialist in Antiquity, curator of Janus Academy” (sometimes even shortening all this to: “philosopher, a specialist in Antiquity”). But the field of my interests and intellectual practices covers the entire field of Humanities, and if I am so passionate about antiquity, it does not mean that I am limited by It. Also, I specialized in personalized learning, developing individual educational programs. Organizing conferences, seminars, presentations, and cultural events; strategic planning; experience in public speaking; working with experts, embassies, and public figures; negotiating; creating (and curating) intellectual and art clubs; developing educational programs for cultural venues; conducting interviews; and working as an editor-compiler of scientific magazines. Besides, writing books, playing in the theater. So who am I? And most importantly, how can I design my life so that the diversity of my knowledge and experience can open up to the world and change something in it?

And in response to this question, I decided to release my “Black Swan”. To create a project that will mark the beginning of a revolution in education. The mission of this project is to consolidate all the most important thinkers, researchers, cultural figures and scientists who set themselves the goal of creating a new interdisciplinary educational program that meets the challenges of the XXI century and can maintain its main task — to be a way of inheriting culture.

1-proportions-of-the-face-leonardo-da-vinci.jpgOften can you see students who do not listen to what their lecturers say? And only imagine that this very lecture is given to a student by his favorite writer or scientist, whose books he reads with great interest. Will he be more attentive to every word, will he take the learning process more seriously and most importantly-will he has a passion, a passion for learning, for mastering new disciplines, new areas, and directions? Would you like to learn from the best of the best? Learn in the process of live communication?

In Janus Academy students do not acquire a narrow specialization, but fundamental knowledge that allows them to unlock their cognitive and intellectual potential.

1. interdisciplinary program “POLYMATH” (2 years of study)

2. 32 directions

3. more than 150 author’s courses that form a unique educational complex:

- a complex of humanitarian disciplines that give students fundamental knowledge,

- a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) complex that develops innovative thinking and the ability to collect, analyze, systematize and critically comprehend information.

4. brilliant teaching staff (about 200 leading Russian and European scientists and specialists, researchers, philosophers, cultural and artistic figures)

5. training of international communities of polymath teachers to solve global problems of mankind.

My friend told me that you should be able to explain an interesting idea even to a 6-year-old child. And he asked me to explain to his 6-year-old daughter the purpose of my project. “How will you tell her about the polymaths, about the Renaissance man?” And I said to the little girl,” Imagine a small island. Did you imagine? Now imagine a vast continent, no! — imagine a whole world! See how different they are? In ordinary educational institutions, people are made into small Islands, and in my Academy, everyone will have the opportunity to become a whole world!” And the little girl understood me.

How do I see the project, for example, in 10 years? From the very beginning, I laid the Foundation of Janus Academy not only with the revolutionary potential but also with the potential for growth. In other words, I have a good idea of how this project will grow to an entire Empire within a few years, with its well-thought-out, branching structure. It will cover the whole world and unite the best minds of mankind. And at the center of this Empire will be the idea of a polymath.

If this type of personality does not begin to form now, if it is not allowed to express itself as much as possible in all areas of human activity, if it is not allowed to find the key to the global challenges that the XXI century throws at us, we will disappear as metaphysical beings, as intellectual individuals, and as a biological species. We have entered a transitional stage, Interregnum, when the outdated paradigm has already been destroyed and the new one has not yet emerged. It’s time to “reinvent the world”.

Russian philosopher, cultural scientist, a specialist in Antiquity, curator of Janus Academy.