Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto
By Bryan W. Van Norden
Columbia University Press
What can a book on philosophy teach us about how to make and shape meaning-much!
Betrand Russell reminds that philosophy is the discipline that takes on the questions “to which at present, no definite answer can be given”
(Van Norden 133 cites Betrand Russell)
Reviewed by Mary McBride, who is readying travelers for a Leadership Learning Journey to Japan, and enriching this year’s studies with research around the theme Shaping and Making Meaning.
Leaders are the people charged with grappling with those questions, making meaning of them and guiding collective action.
Shaping human action to create shared meaning is a critical part of managing creative enterprise.
How do we live well and with each other? These are both philosophical and strategic questions. They enable us to order our intentions and inform our decision making.
Enterprise leaders align energies across boundaries that can easily become barriers to innovative thinking and action. Shaping agreement on what constitutes right action is a critical leadership competency. A multicultural perspective helps.
It also helps to know that knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it are not the same thing. They set up practice routines, pilots and learning processes. “When people know something, but their actions don’t accord with it, their knowledge is still shallow. But once they have experienced it, their knowledge is more enlightened.” Van Norden on Zhu Xi’s The Great Learning p77)
Van Norden argues persuasively that we have much to learn from a world tradition of thoughtful philosophical inquiry. It trains the mind and, at best, opens the heart. Especially if we draw from wisdom across time, and the boundaries of geography.
Multicultural perspectives are essential for enterprise leaders who operate across borders. But, they are also important for any person who seeks to understand how we, as humans, make meaning of our experience, our work and our world.