Uppsala universitet och de tre åldrarna av hälsa: fysisk, psykologisk, filosofisk

Vi vet vad är ”fysisk hälsa” och vi tycker att det är uppenbart att vi behöver det. Men det var inte alltid uppenbart. För två hundra år sedan var gymnastik en lyx för de lyckliga få, när Pehr Henrik Ling, fäktningsmästare vid Uppsala universitet, blev den första chefen för det nya Gymnastika centralinstitutet. Idag anses fysisk hälsa vara en nödvändighet för alla, nästan en mänsklig rättighet.

Vi vet vad är “psykologisk hälsa” och vi tycker att det är ganska tydligt att vi alla behöver det. För ett hundra år sedan var det en ny idé och en lyx för ett privilegierat samhälle, när Sidney Arutz, grundare av det första svenska psykologilaboratoriet, vid Uppsala universitet, använde hypnos och suggestionsterapi för att hjälpa några få människor att lösa sina trauma. Idag anses psykologisk hälsa vara en nödvändighet för alla, nästan en mänsklig rättighet.

Har du hört talas om ”filosofisk hälsa”? Kanske inte. Det händer idag vid Uppsala universitet, det första universitetet i Sverige som startar ett forskningsprogram kring idén om filosofisk hälsa, vid centrum för medicinska humaniora och samhällsvetenskap, med dr Luis de Miranda, som utvecklar, både teoretiskt och praktiskt, banbrytande arbete för hur filosofisk vård kan förbättra hälsan hos individer och grupper. Vill du vänta hundra år för att få veta mer om det, när filosofisk hälsa kommer att betraktas som en nödvändighet för alla, nästan en mänsklig rättighet? 

Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the first philosophical counselor working in Sweden, in dialogue with Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689).

The Philosophical Possible

In order to express the interdependence not only of all things but also of the physical, the psychological and the spiritual realms, the crealectic approach distinguishes threes modes of possibility: the physical possible, the psychological possible, and the philosophical possible. The physical possible relates to initial conditions in the analytic realisation of discretizable things via material causality. The psychological possible relates to the dialectic realm and its movements of tensions, dualities, degrees of liberty, alterity or alienation. The third mode, the philosophical possible, originates in the crealectic intelligence process by which ideation as a spiritual property of the universe transmutes (into) coherent, regenerative and eudynamic realities. I believe that attempts at explaining how this transmutation might be brought about constitutes the very history of philosophy itself, from Plato to Hegel et al., from hermeticism to process philosophy. Indeed, for a crealectician, philosophy is not the mere logical analysis of truth conditions, but the self-questioning process of thought regarding its own possibilizing and world-making power.

Luis de Miranda, Big Bang 2, acrylic painting 3/11/2001

Become Your Own Self-Conscious Program.

There is a human-induced process of equalization at work on earth: transformation of difference into sameness.

From the point of view of the master, there is the belief that it is possible to impose such dissolution of specificity on others without affecting the master’s singularity.

The idea is that once beings are transformed into standard bits, they are more manipulable and less recalcitrant, and that as equalization propagates, it is however possible for the happy few to remain aloof from the dissolution of the people into data.

The ruse of the digital masters is that they can now discretise all beings into bits without appearing to physically affect their integrity. This is technological voodoo. We help you generate a digital avatar of yourself, and when we manipulate the avatar, it affects you because you are connecting yourself to it every day.

Many people believe they are at least partly on the side of the master, that they can for the most and for what counts control the process, that they are not ultimately the victim of equalization. This might be partially true, for now, if one knows what counts for oneself.

The question is: can the equalization program work? Or is there a singularity feature in each being that prevents a complete discretization? Are we more than data? Can we be free?

The simple answer is that it takes a great deal of courage to be free. You need to be ready for the possibility to lose everything in the process of actualising your autonomy. Most people are not. We are controlled and limited in innumerable ways, partly by norms, partly by alienated beliefs, but also by our own desires or sense of responsibility. Only an immense faith can be stronger than fear and dependence.

If people new that life was like a videogame with infinite possibility to restart the game once you die, then they would take many risks. Death would be a daily sport. Now many people believe they only have one life, and they hold on to it at all cost, not unlike slaves might do.

The political question that answers the reductive process of equalization described above is: can we equalize freedom? Can we produce autonomy and freedom faster than we produce dependence and alienation? And for whom?

Given the current status of individualism, we might expect the happy few to conquer autonomy for themselves while capitalising on the lack of autonomy of others.

A world in which all beings would be fully free could look like the above-mentioned deadly videogame, unless there is something that limits people’s will to power. For example, a gratitude for being without the need to constantly expand one’s territory, or better, the understanding of what expansion really means.

If expansion means more money, a bigger house, more social recognition, then this is a competitive game with winners and losers. If expansion means more love, more joy, more participative understanding, more co-creation, less frustration, then it might be possible to counter the expansion of digital control.

This is not to mean that you should want nothing, in a Stoic fashion. This rather means, in a Nietzschean manner, that you should want what is. And here again not what is in the sense of the phenomena that are, which can be unfair or ugly. But what deeply is, the noumenon, essence of the universe, the Creal.

This is the recipe to be free: become the noumenon, asymptotically. That search itself, if perseverant, will protect you. 

One usually opposes the necessary and the possible. Once freedom becomes a discipline, and I would argue that it can only be cultivated as such, then one could think there is a paradox in the idea of – not constrained – but at least a trained attitude of liberty inducement.

The paradox disappears if we look at the domain of music improvisation, today associated with Jazz but formerly also practiced in baroque music. There is a necessity dictated by the score, the tonality at least, some elements that one needs to return to, a field or grid of expression, but these function as a trance inducing protocol to generate the liberty of improvisation, the singularity of a musical mood or style.

The domain of human existence is equally constrained, more or less than music.

Is free will a condition of possibility for freedom? Perhaps it is the opposite: the capacity to train oneself to improvise and think as personally as possible slowly generates a character that allows for free will. This may mean that not all human possesses free will. 

Here a soft imperative (comparable to a musical tonality for an improviser) might be: to become yourself, remain constantly faithful to your mode of access to freedom (a motto for example), and then see what happens, let life and the Creal offer you synchronistic opportunities. Become your own self-conscious program. Becoming the noumenon systematically, the robot of the Creal rather than the robot of cyberdigitalism.

How to become your own self-conscious program? This is the topic of my novel Paridaiza.

Humanity: a Saturated Draft?

The assumption that technology is a bigger part of our lives than ever before must be questioned. It seems true because we are an industrious species with a short memory. Many of us can’t even remember what everyday life looked like before we had mobile phones. It might be a fact that new inventions are adopted quicker because digital capitalism and global mass consumption are an accelerator of technological evolution. But while technology evolves faster, I am not sure it is a bigger part of who we are than before.

I am not even sure our obsession or fascination with technology is stronger than before. Take the notorious Manisfesto of Futurism (1909). Marinetti felt that the technological progresses of his time, for example the household propagation of electricity or the invention of automobiles, was a “new sunrise on earth”. He looked at speed as a new ontological absolute, the “splendor of the world.” Yet the Ford T, which was being produced since 1908, had a top speed of only 40 miles per hour.

Technology is what the Greeks called a pharmakon (a term popularized by Derrida and Stiegler), among others, both the cure and sometimes a new disease, never to be taken without a political horizon. For example, studies tend to show that so-called “digital natives” have a short attention span: is this compatible with deep thinking or political consciousness? Probably not. But it might help to think faster, or differently. My first job – actually my “military service” – was at the French economic expansion bureau in New York, in 1995: from my office in Manhattan, I did sometimes communicate with David, a French friend of mine, via fax, because emails were still to be democratized. David and I would write letters that we faxed to each other across the Atlantic in minutes. The general meaning of our dialogue would have remained the same if we had used emails: enjoying and cultivating friendship. But the phenomenological experience was different. For example, I had to run to the fax machine in order to be the first to receive my correspondence rather than have it glanced at by someone else in the office. Today we receive emails in what we feel is an instantaneous intimate bubble, as if we were having an internal monologue with the rest of the world. Of course, we might consider that our workplace emails are spied on, but most of the time, we don’t think about digital security. It feels that it’s just us and the messages: the mechanical work we have to perform to receive messages, and the time lapse, tend to be minimal, creating an illusion of near telepathy.

I would distinguish between a technology that is visible, thickly embedded socially, and openly artificial, as opposed to a technology that is almost invisible, almost asocial, and natural-like: a quasi-instantaneous message announcing the death of a friend via automated email might feel like Persephone herself whispering in your ear, or it might feel more abstract. But it would be wrong to affirm that quasi-natural technology is new. Take an institution like marriage. It’s a reproductive cultural technology that was long presented as natural. It regulated social perpetuation as a social algorithm, defining who could marry whom, who could procreate with whom. Marriage was (and still is) a psychological technology that regulated social class, loneliness, physical and mental health, etc. We know for example that people who tend to remain single late in life have a worse health condition because they don’t eat as properly, they take more everyday risks because they go out more often, and they don’t benefit from the immunological affective effects of having children, and living in an environment of mutual care (in case of a non-stressful marriage).

We have been anthrobots since we have started to cooperate and organize our tasks. As anthrobots, we are a hybrid unity made of flesh and protocols, creation and creature. It would not make much sense to speak of a human species without technology. Ancient tribes had their own technology: rituals, prayers, traditions, languages, more or less extended divisions of labor. We realize that we have always been a technological species when we understand that a technology is an enabling set of algorithms that don’t need to be enclosed in a computer. A technology can be an institutional ritual. As social beings we follow protocols, codes, techniques that define us as an anthrobotic species, a species that has relied on forms of automation since the building of the Great Pyramids and probably before. This is what historian of technology Lewis Mumford called the “megamachine.”

More recently, philosophers Deleuze and Guattari defined humans as “desiring machines”: after all, we have electricity in our bodies, and we are connected to many social protocols. There is no such thing as our bodies and minds, separately, nor are they totally separated from technology. We are anthrobotic units, not just robotic ones: as anthropos, we are more than robots and protocols, because we can co-create or at least ordinate new protocols and novel social machines. The development of more accessible technological devices for all, like personal computers, is without a doubt a positive factor politically.

Another important point is that the underlying process of our technological condition is: to can is to do. Which means that if we have new possibilities, we will use them. Which also means that with great power can come greater loss of time and responsibility. The more techno-capitalist societies multiply points of contact between each of us and machines, the more we will be constantly mobilized to produce data. This can become alienating, because we are not here on earth to merely produce data. We are here to shape it into meaningful worlds. What is positive is the — at least virtual — democratization of world-shaping via technology.

An anthrobot is not a robot. This means that we are more than the sum of our automatisms. We have a special narrative relation to our emotions, to care, to desire, to co-creation, to conflict, to harmony. The human danger, the “negative” aspect is to identify with our technologies, as if they were natural, for example to think of the technology of marriage as something absolutely and eternally necessary, or to think of social networks as a territory outside of which there is no survival. Or to think that a given technology is good for everyone because it serves a need. There is not such thing as a universal social need, even if there are biological needs. Here we should remember Sartre’s existentialist philosophy: we are “condemned to be free”, which means that we are a plural species with many possible worldviews and possible world-forming techniques and values, possible life-worlds or forms of life. 

I define a robot as any algorithmic enabler, which allows me to suppose that we have always been surrounded by robots of some sort. According to Lewis Mumford, a megamachine is an invisible structure composed of living human parts, each assigned to a special office, role, and task, in order to make possible the immense work-output and designs of a collective organization. The famous example is the building of pyramids, in which thousands of slaves were organized into a vast human machine, each subgroup performing a simple task as a cog.

Artificial intelligence is nothing new. Take languages for example: grammar and vocabulary are an artificial extension that produces knowledge and action — more than the sum of its parts — when organized in specific ways and uttered in specific circumstances. This is called today the extended theory of mind by philosophers like Andy Clark, but sociologists like Emile Durkheim already studied these forms of collective consciousness in the nineteenth century. We are not only a cognitive species, we are a cog-native species. We organize our worlds as social machines.

Of course, I am ready to admit that we do feel that today there is a rise of robots and artificial intelligence. What new phenomenology will this perception and feeling produce? Let’s use an example, perhaps a metaphor. We all know that there are public rooms in which the light turns on when sensors perceive a movement. This is a very minimal artificially intelligent device. It enables us to save the energy of turning the light on, and saves some energy by reducing electricity consumption, since the light will turn off eventually when the room is interpreted by the detector as being inactive. Now, imagine I am sitting alone in such a public room, say a common dining room, and I am thinking. I am not moving, so after a certain period of time the light turns off. This is why some public spaces now use acoustic detectors. Recently I found myself in such a vast room alone silently writing on my computer. It was just me and the sound detector, with which I developed an ephemeral relationship. That’s the other side of the coin of our tendency to naturalize human inventions, for example transforming marriage into a natural law, or a sound detector into a spiritual entity that would listen to us. We tend to anthropomorphize anything that we interact with on a regular basis, for example attributing personality characteristics to our car or our bike. This animistic mode of thinking — the idea that most things around us have a soul — is probably hardwired in our reptilian brain or limbic system: it’s probably a survival advantage to presuppose that anything could be an agent and perform an attack on us.

Conversely, it might be convenient, in order to avoid being constantly afraid of everything, to assume that we can domesticate objects to the point that they become our friends. Now take the openly anthropoid robots that will soon invade our households. Clearly, we will be more inclined to consider them as spiritual beings, especially if we live alone, as predicted in many movies and novels. Take the movie Her. The real theme of such a movie is not that technology will replace humans, it’s the pathology of being without a world, without a collectively shared symbolic space that allows us to develop our individuation by co-creating ourselves and our peers in a conscious and dialogic manner. More and more urban inhabitants, despite the fact that they live in vast cities, are devoid of belonging to any embodied mind-sharing community. We must reinvent meaningful corporations, or symbolic value-producing associations that respect personal freedom and our need for well-belonging. 

Intelligent systems around us can create time for us humans to become what we can do best: world-formers, community builders, co-creators of values, provided that other new technological devices are not channeling our free time towards futile tasks of data production or blind entertainment. Most of our daily hours are not spent producing anything new, they are spend reproducing the reality we leave in, our social capital: the most dangerous robot is perhaps hiding within us: it is the automatic reproduction of thoughts and beliefs that maintain the world as we know it, the same social reality yesterday, today and tomorrow. Of course, some traditional values are useful to be maintained and even recalled, and reapplied when forgotten. But the main danger of technology is the unquestioned automatic reproduction of embedded beliefs and values as if they were eternal and natural: crystallized biases.

The question is: will technological development catch up with our full potential? We have to stop thinking that robots and artificial intelligent systems are the next new thing, above or ahead of us. In fact, they are behind us. Being fully human is the real ultimate achievement, not a regression. A certain nostalgic humanism has caused much damage in supposing that humanity in each of us is a given, and that we don’t have to do much to be human. I prefer a more active view of what it takes to be human: a fully realized human being is part of a collective worldforming, a co-creative ensemble, and we still need to fully invent the human species, which is an elaborated but confused draft. Perhaps better to take a new white page, because the previous draft has become almost unreadable for many.

What is Universally True

When people say that knowledge is “universally true,” we must understand that it is like railroads, which are found everywhere in the world but only to a limited extent. To shift to claiming that locomotives can move beyond their narrow, and expensive rails is another matter. Yet magicians try to dazzle us with “universal laws” which they claim to be valid even in the gaps between the networks.

Bruno Latour 1988, The Pasteurization of France, Cambridge, Mass, and London: Harvard University Press.

Call for Chapters – Possibility, (Re)Generation, Care

Call for Chapters for a collective book (including a symposium)

Possibility, (Re)Generation, Care: Perspectives on Philosophical Health 

Edited by Luis de Miranda[1] and Elisabetta Basso

This book is the first of its kind to explore the emerging concept of philosophical health in contemporary contexts of care as distinct from, yet complementary to physical and psychological forms of health. We envision a prioriphilosophical health as a state of fruitful coherence between a person’s ways of thinking and speaking and their ways of acting, such that the possibilities for a good life are increased and the needs for self- and intersubjective flourishing satisfied. This is however an open, emerging concept, and the present book is dedicated to exploring its full potential.

The question of care has today become a central philosophical issue. Most researchers have emphasized the relational and intersubjective character of the experience of care (care can be defined as a relationship with oneself, the others, and the world), thereby turning to the investigation of our pre-intentional or pre-reflexive experience of the world, its nature and genesis. Over the past decades an original dialogue has been, for instance, launched between the phenomenological tradition and research on cognition, in order to address issues such as intersubjectivity, self-awareness and self-experience, emotion, corporeality and the “sense of the real”. This research field implies also reflections on the meaning and aims of therapy: in the phenomenological agenda, in particular, a special emphasis is placed on the philosophical concept of “possibility”, which is considered crucial since it defines the space of action of both the patient and the caregiver within the clinical or counseling relationship. In the field of psychopathology, the psychiatrist-phenomenologist, thanks to her/his intuitive ability to grasp the rules or “directions of meaning” (Bedeutungsrichtungen) structuring the patient’s “world-project,” is supposed to question the style according to which the patient exists (that is, the way in which the patient relates with a world, the others, oneself) in order to intervene in the structuration of this world. Thus, far from imposing itself with its own interpretative system, therapy in the context of philosophical health is conceived of as a co-creative, (re)generative or (re)possibilizing act.

The fields of care and health are privileged sites of possibility. While, when considering the latter, we usually focus on the arts, science or the future, healing and regeneration are also paradigmatic examples of phenomena that expand the possible and the new in our lives and in the lives of others. Regeneration is itself an act of transformation and, to some extent, of re-creation. Beyond reifying diagnoses, philosophical-mental health in particular depends on our relationship with the possible as a category that reveals human existence as multiple, open-ended, agentic and generative, and this seems compatible with the scientific discoveries regarding the plasticity of the brain, lifelong neuron regeneration, resilience, neurodiversity or multiple realizability. Without a sense of self-possibility and openness to the future, we could not talk about health and, conversely, pathologies are defined by various kinds of impossibilities as they effectively shut down our imagination for what could be and what could still become. In this context, care can be reconceptualized as a process of cultivating or pruning the possible in embodied, psychological and social terms, of allowing things to take a new turn, to re-generate or in some cases to vanish. Studying this dynamic is central for philosophical practice and for interdisciplinary explorations of care and health. Philosophical reflection enables a deeper engagement with various dimensions of the possible, including “what is not”, “what could be”, “what could have been” and “what can or should never be”. Philosophy is (re)generative when it carefully projects another world as a potential to be enacted within our very world. Explorations of such dimensions play an essential role in human relationships based on offering and receiving care, grounding them in the fundamental recognition of human possibility, notwithstanding one’s contextual, physical, psychological or social challenges.

Nietzsche was perhaps the first contemporary to re-establish a central connection between philosophy and (“great”) health (1882). After Binswanger’s Daseinsanalysis in the 1920s with its concept of repossibilization (Wiederermöglichung), and since Frankl’s logotherapy of meaning in the 1950s, philosophy is slowly re-emerging as the practice of intersubjective care it was originally known for in Antiquity (Foucault and Hadot). From Koestenbaum’s “Clinical Philosophy” (1978) and Achenbach’s Philosophical Praxis (1984), a new meta-therapeutic practice labelled “philosophical counseling” has been emerging sporadically in several parts of the world. Devoid of standardized diagnoses, chemical prescriptions, or normative psychologies, the philosophical health paradigm puts emphasis on an embodied idea of meaning-making, self-determination, the modernity of which could be traced back to Kant’s ethics.

Some of the questions raised by a health philosopher are: In what sense can meaning be healing? Can the generation or regeneration of meaning allowed by philosophical practice be healing beyond psychological nomenclatures? If mental and cognitive health can be improved via philosophy, could it be because theory becomes therapy by impregnating a praxis, not only the praxis of the counselor or caregiver, but the actions and decisions of the counselee, whose cognition is enacted in a lifeworld and embodied in intuition, emotion, physicality, but also thought? Why is philosophical health an important complement to issues of physical and psychological health, shedding new light on the third sustainable development goal of the United Nations in the 2030 horizon, “health and well-being”?

Our volume explores the intrinsic possibility for philosophical practice to be creative and to give birth to life-affirming worlds via the kind of transformations mental and ideational processes are capable of. By investigating the philosophical dimension of the care relationship, and the understudied health and generative dimension of philosophising, this book promotes a broader historical, epistemological and anthropological questioning of the multifarious field of “philosophical practice” in relation to health research. We present interdisciplinary and original perspectives in order to explore, in particular, how the concepts of “possibility” and “regeneration” may impact contemporary debates on practices of care and the socio-political future of well-being.

[1] Corresponding editor.


We expect original work written specifically for this book project. Each article can focus on one or more of the four key notions of the title (1. possibility, 2. (re)generation, 3. care, 4. philosophical health). All of the four signifiers need to appear in each chapter and be connected together at least minimally for the sake of the general coherence of the book.

We welcome work from various disciplines and approaches, such as philosophy, intellectual history, history of ideas, psychology, philosophical counselling, health and medical humanities, etc.

An extended abstract of 1500 words shall be sent by 15 July 2021.

We will use the Chicago author-date style.

Each final submission should be 5000 words long, with a variation of 500, submitted as follows: a full pre-review version by 15 January 2022, which shall circulate among all authors (no more than 18 chapters, plus an introduction and a conclusion by the editors), then a post-symposium final version by 30 June 2022. The final version of the chapters should at least minimally echo some other chapters, for the sake of coherence and internal dialogue between perspectives.

In April 2022 (precise date to be determined), a symposium will take place at Uppsala University, Sweden, for all authors to meet and discuss the chapters before they are finalised.

A contract with an academic publisher shall be signed in September 2021, and the book is expected to be published between December 2022 and March 2023.

Please contact the corresponding editor Luis de Miranda: luis.demiranda@idehist.uu.se.

The editors:

Luis de Miranda, PhD, is researcher at the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Sciences at Uppsala University. A latecomer to Academia, he was previously the author of a dozen novels and philosophical literary essays in French, since then translated into various languages, among which Who Killed the Poet (Max Milo, France, 2011; Galata, Turkey, 2012; Snuggly Books, USA, 2017; Haitian, China, 2018; Palaver Press, Sweden, 2019). He is the founder of The Philosophical Parlour in Stockholm, where he offers philosophical counseling sessions since 2018 both to individuals or corporations such as the energy multinational Vattenfall. His work is mostly philosophical, with a focus on applied philosophy and process philosophy. He is an elected practicing member of SSFP, the Swedish Society for Philosophical Praxis. In 2019, he was invited by Unesco Headquarters in Paris to present his vision regarding philosophical health and subsequently inaugurated the open network PHI (Philosophical Health International: https://philosophical.health). In terms of scholarly books in English, he is the author of Being and Neonness (MIT Press, 2019), and Ensemblance(Edinburgh University Press, 2020).

Elisabetta Basso, PhD, is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the École normale supérieure, Lyon (UMR 5206 Triangle), and associated member of the Centre d’Archives en Philosophie, Histoire et Édition des Sciences (CAPHES UMS 3610), CNRS-ENS Paris. She is a member of the editorial board for the publication of the series Cours et travaux de Michel Foucault avant le Collège de France (Paris: Seuil/Gallimard/EHESS). Her primary research goals are directed toward the relationship between anthropology, phenomenology, and psychopathology in the Continental philosophical thought of the 20th and 21th century. Among her publications is the edition of Foucault’s manuscript Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle, Paris: Seuil/Gallimard/EHESS, 2021.

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