Using Experimental Philosophy to Shift Perspective, with Jonathon Keats

Jonathon Keats introduces his workshop on experimental philosophy by listing the rules and lessons he's developed over the years.

Jonathon Keats: 

My name is Jonathon Keats and I am an experimental philosopher. What that means is that I do things like open a restaurant for plants. I sell real estate in the extra dimensions of space. I choreograph ballets for honeybees. I build systems by which you can become married by a law of nature using quantum mechanics as the foundation rather than a legal or religious authority. I even attempt to genetically engineered God.

All of these are rather absurd on the surface and may not seem especially practical in your everyday life. However I think that there are some basic lessons that can be extracted from them that, at least for me, are highly useful even when I am not pursuing experimental philosophy. Even when I am simply trying to get by in the world, basic ways in which an experimental philosopher looks at the world that can be divided perhaps into five lessons.

And I'm going to go over these with you by way of example looking at some of the projects that I have undertaken with the take away that you might be able to apply these rules either to undertake your own experiments in philosophy or simply that you can use these in your creative problem-solving at work or at home. The lessons can be very briefly summarized as follows.

Ask naïve questions, invert perceptions, combine incompatible ideas, remix metaphors and pursue paradox. By no means are these comprehensive and they're rather glib yet I think that if you take these as a point of departure, as I sometimes do, you'll find that you get outside of yourself in terms of your routines, your education and your common sense. And you start to look at the world in different ways that may lead you to ideas that you never knew that you had.

Jonathon Keats introduces his workshop by listing the following five rules for looking at the world like an experimental philosopher:


1. Ask naive questions,

2. invert perceptions,

3. combine incompatible ideas,

4. remix metaphors,

5. and pursue paradox.

Related Articles
Playlists
Keep reading Show less

Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

Mind & Brain

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Keep reading Show less

For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

Keep reading Show less