Gestalten: A Resource for Comparative Philosophy?

with Rohan Sikri (University of Georgia)

Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Time: 2:00pm EDT

Comparatism in the field of philosophy remains, at best, a niche exercise, or else an endeavor that is often mired in justificatory defenses that are sought by a disciplinary center organized around European and Anglo-American histories. This paper addresses the burden and promise of comparative philosophy by offering a methodological model that situates comparanda within the framework of gestalt ontology. Adapting this framework from both the history of psychology and trends in environmental philosophy, I suggest that the idea of a Gestalt—a contextually bounded world in which the unique interrelation of focal points creates horizons of intelligibility—affords us a unique derivation of philosophical problems in a comparative space. Rather than locating comparanda within closed, stable systems of thought, then, a gestalt methodology seeks the availability of common philosophical problems across diverse fields that take formal shape around the various intersecting strands of culture, language, politics and social forces. As an application, I turn to two texts—Plato’s Phaedrus and the Zhuangzi—to demonstrate how situating Greek and Chinese philosophical models within their respective Gestalten might bring out what is both similar and different in their understanding of an index of problems.

Rohan Sikri is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. His research areas include ancient Greek and classical Chinese philosophy. His work often takes a metaphilosophical approach, focusing on questions of methodology, the cultural and social construction of the ‘philosopher,’ as well as on debates related to the scope and agenda of the philosophical exercise as it is conceived in traditions of antiquity. Currently, he is working on multiple projects that explore the intersection of medical and philosophical debates in early China and ancient Greece, questions of philosophy as a therapeutic practice, and the philosophy of travel in Greek and Chinese antiquity.

This event is part of the Comparatism Seminar Series, organized by Lisa Raphals (University of California, Riverside and the Center for Hellenic Studies) and hosted by the Center for Hellenic Studies.