“80% Of philosophical research revolve for heating air”

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My ex-colleague Hans Harbers, who became the university and became Putzmann, about the tension of science and politics and a practical philosophy

Hans Harbers (born 1954) earned his relationship between science and politics in 1986. In 1989 he became associated professor for philosophy of science, technology and coexistence at the Dutch University of Groningen.

From dissatisfaction with academic operation, he rounded the research part of his place in 2012 to invest more time in the organization of public debates. On the 1. In September 2019, he then in line with the University of the retirement age (for him at 66 years and four months), he became something quite practical: he became Putzmann and cleaned the apartments auxiliary exercise tiger.

Although we worked on similar topics, we met each other in ten years perhaps a dozen times. Different Faculties – here: Behavior and Social Sciences, there: philosophy – are different worlds. Typical Dutch you were fast by you. Hans always reminded me of Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Its content-strong occurrence has always been underlined by its bodygroobe as well as its room-enfulous voice: if he grabbed the word, you can automatically apply.

About an article in our university newspaper I learned about his activity as a Putzmann. I am very pleased that he is available for an interview for my German-speaking readers and readers. For photos of Hans when cleaning is referred to the article in the UniDief, as we can not show these from licensing reasons here.

Despite the serious topics Hans always worked hard. He also mediated this impression in the following conversation. The first part of the interview is about the ratio between science, philosophy and politics. In the second part, we learn more about why Hans Harbers finally fell in love with universities and was Putzmann.

"We ask philosophers ask. We do not give answers"

Hans, for someone with your experience horizon, I have a very simple question right at the beginning: What is the task of a philosopher in society?

Hans Harbers: [laughs] I have broken only a course for manager. Then I told: We ask philosophers ask. We do not give answers. We question the above all the "Frames" our thinking, ie the conceptual frame in which we often sit. Thus we create the collar, room for free, new thoughts. On my homepage, I also speak of the cross-thinking, from the center and the outside.

Therefore, the philosopher must be very close to those who think the people in practice. A colleague from Amsterdam, Professor Annemarie Mol, once talked about "Practical metaphysics". Also a nurse or a doctor have a worldview, a metaphysics, and practic this implicitly. A philosopher examines this, asks this – and makes it explicitly.

And how did that matter what most philosophers do today at the university?

Hans Harbers: Unfortunately very bad. That was exactly why I know the research part of my body in 2012. The vast majority of colleagues wrote and write only for other philosophers.

Our institute is always obvious to the world top. But how was that measured? You probably wit better than me: It only went to publications in journals. This system may work for medicine and life sciences as we see again in the corona crisis. Since the latest research results have to be exchanged internationally.

But the philosophy is different. In the end, academic philosophers are only looking for answers for questions they ask each other. Historically one then comes to questions like: "What did Hegel Ober Kant said?" And then later: "What said this Hegel Schuler Uber Hegel Uber Kant?" But even in contemporary philosophy, we see the same pattern, for example the tens of interpretation of John Rawl’s justice theory. Or philosophers puzzling at the autonomy.

For me, the little new fugged. You can keep going so endlessly, but actually it is about nothing. I prefer to play with a real puzzle. What is the whole thing if you do not find the investigations for autonomy on the "practical metaphysics" thus refers, which means, for example, for the nurse, which is aid for auxiliary patients? Or think of the discussion on euthanasia.

If your considerations do not mean anything to the autonomous term in such associations, then it is actually about heater air. My impression after turning 80% of philosophical research around hot air. And I did not want to participate anymore.

In your opinion, philosophers have a special responsibility to their students? Or is the end of the same thoughts as you have executed them for society?

Hans Harbers: Philosophy lessons I find very important. That’s why I have this part of my job – in addition to financial grounds – long -. I do not just think of our own philosophy students, who often had the inclination to crawl in the purely conceptual questions.

Siliorly, I always found lessons for students of other options. The philosophical thoughts quickly focus on questions of their own disciplines: what does that mean for psychology, chemistry or whatever? For example, in interdisciplinary courses, we conducted ourselves with the press conferences of leading politicians and scientists. We have taken apart with philosophical means of conceptual analysis and thus felt statements about facts and values on the tooth. As a result, students got to know the areas better in which they were soon working as professionals.

In this context, I often speak of one "Conceptual toolbox", which one can let go of the world. Sometimes you need a screwdriver, sometimes a legend, sometimes a hammer. That depends entirely on the problem with which one copes. It is important to me to apply these tools to concrete problems, while academic philosophy alone works with the toolbox.

This is how my next question looks well. In your doctoral thesis completed in 1986, you procured yourself with the connection between science and politics. What was your conclusion then and how do you see that today?

Hans Harbers: At that time, I examined a concrete case study, namely the discussion on unequal educational opportunities. According to my training as the education sociologists, I was well acquainted with empirical research and the theoretical discussion.

In comparison, very old – political discussion with scientific research on the topic noted that politics and science were hand in hand, if they went out of the same basic amptions. That’s going to the "Frames" I mentioned that previously mentioned the mental frame. Specifically, it was about the meritocratic ideology, ie the conviction that performance is rewarded. Definitely show that scientific studies support political decisions.

As soon as one questioned the meritocratic ideology itself, the scientific results were also in doubt, because these were also based on the meritocratic thinking. So I could show that scientific research – here concrete: education sociology – rather a philosophical as an empirical role played.

My conclusion was therefore that the ratio of science and politics depends on the conceptual frame in which they move. I was also concerned that science not only exported a technocratic specifications from policy, but is involved in the conceptual level.

That was 1986. But this also hates that in 2020 after a very current question. Maybe the "Frames", The conceptual frames, today maybe even more important than then. What do you think about that?

Hans Harbers: Absolutely! Behind this is the relationship between technocracy and democracy. There is a clear task distribution between politics and science in a technocracy.

An excellent example of this is the Dutch virologist Jaap Van Song in the Corona Pandemic. The claims festival, for the benefits of protective masks there are no hard scientific evidence. Therefore, he will not recommend wearing the masks. Politicians then also refer to other professionals, for example from psychology and sociology. These highlight, for example, that wearing protective masks reminds people about keeping the safety rules.

Between politics and science, such a tension agreement remains, which does not read without further noiselessness. The American social scientist Sheila Jasanoff has pointed out that these fields should not be too close to each other – but not too far apart. In these two traps it goes wrong.

From your point of view, there must always be a tension and exactly this border area I find so interesting. With my students, I also visited various advisory bodies, who interpreted the task distribution between politics and science differently.

"In order to be well applied to the conceptual toolbox, it requires some independence"

This is a topic for itself. But from my perspective, but even the bodies who claim to work purely scientifically work, certain basic amptions and theories that are more likely to be founded philosophically. Do you see here a way out or remains a tension field forever?

Hans Harbers: I do not really like it as bad as we got this in the Netherlands. To the 25. Jubilaum of ours "Scientific Council for Political Guide" (WRR) Has the Bald French Science Sociologist Bruno Latour held a stalk. In it he explained that such an institution in France unthinkable goods, and praised ours "Pole model".

That’s what we have told a lot of opinions, both from scientific and political side, that we include almost endless societal stakeholders. Of course, this leads to a certain constitution. In an international comparison, however, there are decisions that are based on the coarsely assistant support of different parties.

Therefore, I can not find it bad that we have different advisory bodies that all come to different, sometimes even opposite results. On the contrary! That we institutionalized these different perspectives, I consider very important.

I think it’s essential for it to be his basic amptions, so to speak "Corporate philosophy", as such disclosed and does not claim to spread the truth and nothing but the truth. Because this leads quickly to dogmatism and meaningless word hunts.

Hans Harbers: Exactly! And here philosophy can make an important contribution. Such analyzes learn our students. Therefore, after mediated internships in the mentioned counseling bodies often got the reintment: "Send us a bit of someone!"

Such practitioners could well think, write well, work out the basic amptions clean and so on. Apparently, it makes it possible to study the tens of interpretations of Hegel and Kant. [laughs] So you learn good and critical reading and thinking. Or, formulated scientific, to separate signal and noise from each other.

But it does not surprise that so few philosophers and philosophers are in politics?

Hans Harbers: That’s correct. Where our graduates are quite politically active. For example, in the city council of Groningen are just two of my earlier students sit.

I thought more about parliamentarians and ministers. That seems to be a lot of frequent business administration and lawyers.

Hans Harbers: Yes – but we think again of the field of tension between politics and science described by Jasanoff. You have to be careful as a philosopher, not too strong to make one side.

To make the conceptual toolbox, from which I talked to be well applied, it requires some independence. This is difficult for a politician in the limelight. The philosophers and philosophers therefore work more in advisory functions in the Buros. I do that now and then too. But I became the political day business, then my philosophical independence was quickly lost.

In the second part, it will be about the concrete reason, from which Hans Harbers will finish the university, and what he learned in his time as a Putzmann on society.

This article also appears in the blog "People pictures" of the author.

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