'We should stop getting threatened by the unfamiliar'
In his new book 'Where there is no will, there's a way’ Professor Henk Oosterling describes the oriental and western sources of the philosophy he lives by and has been teaching for years. ‘I want to show how from my point of view everything is related and arises from each other’.
Oosterling is assistant professor of Philosophy at the EUR. He became Dutch champion Japanese swordsmanship. He is committed to the development of Rotterdam-Zuid, for which he received an award: the Erasmus Lof der Zotheidspeld.
According to Oosterling, thinking, doing, form and content are one. In the book he promotes what he calls an ‘intercultural reminiscent’. Its origin lies in the practice of the Japanese martial arts and Zen Buddhism. And in the West it comes from Foucault and other French differential theories that oppose dogmas. At the EUR Oosterling applies this idea in his educational projects.
‘The title of the book can be interpreted in many ways. The simplest and most immediate interpretation is indeed that western consumers are way too high maintanace. We need to drastically curb our desires and needs. The path we followd until now is dead. Literally. Our ecosystem can not cope with our way of life. The title also means we need a different attitude towards life. We should be open to the world and not directly be threatened by the unfamiliar.
How do you do this?
Just get out of bed and start. Everything you do a matter of focused consciousness. We need to start thinking of ourselves in relational and circular ways. And this can be found in the East. I think that among other things the Japanese way of thinking, which is not the individual and his autonomy to rise, but the harmony of the group. I add that people always want to make a difference. "
Should we get rid of the autonomous individual?
No. The idea that you have your own life is very valuable. The individual exists, but not in the fundamental way in which we have proposed in the West. I want to put the individual autonomy and the idea of identity in a dynamic context.
We're falling back into oppositions. A completely nineteenth century way of thinking. We tackle our problems with oppositional thinking in exactly the way they sprang, with cramping and cynicism as a result. We can no longer afford to pretend we are not cross-linked in networks: what we do at home, eventually affects people on the other side of the world.
Hoe do we get people ready?
Getting everyone ready takes time and the question is whether I want everyone to get ready. I won’t waste any time on who’s already given up. We need young people and their parents to start with. Children can be taught to think relationally and circular and to create new values based on collaboration and interest, such as compassion, altruism, empathy and responsibility. "
Everything is connected, you can - in polarized terms - always ask: Am I part of the problem, or am I part of the solution? Philosophy should do this too. It must step down from its ivory tower and commit. If she wants to regain credibility.