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Who is Richard-David Precht?

prechtSingled out from contemporary intellectuals, Richard David Precht distinguishes himself by the philosopher position he calls for: “we have to accept the assignment of the philosopher, which is to open himself and take an interest in important issues of our society”.

Born in 1964 in Solingen, Richard David Precht studied philosophy and art history. He published several successful books of fiction as well as philosophy. Sciences enthusiast, he was awarded in journalism in the field of biomedical studies.He raised attention during a German TV show; non conventional, he contrasts with his new vision of the German philosopher. His book Wer bin ich, und wenn ja, wie viele (How am I, and – And If So, How Many?) became a best-seller, sold over 1 000 000 times. His analysis of human relationship is a great introduction for a large public to philosophical problems, to the question of being human. 

What Richard David Precht wants is to confront philosophy with other disciplines, providing them with a new perspective. Thus he notices that we always call academics for a final expertise but never during the process of creation, when they can propose ideas. In his opinion, philosophy isolated itself little by little, especially because of the separation of disciplines at university – philosophers have no more obligation to be experts in other fields.

On the contrary, Richard David Precht promotes a philosophy based on real facts and suggests a creative thought from concrete to concept. Philosophy must tackle political, economic, cultural questions but also questions about medias or medicine.

He came to share this approach at the Forum d’Avignon 2009, during a debate tackling “culture: thinking for tomorrow”. He points out that “the question in society is, who is in favor of new culture and new values and who is responsible?”. Philosophers have to get out “this hole of irrelevance and impoverished thought”, to give meaning again. He spoke in favor of a “philosophy of responsibilities and competences”. 

Extract from Cultural Strategies for a new world – Acts of the Forum d’Avignon 2009

 “Culture and hard sciences should be able to live together, which is not something that can happen bureaucratically in some sort of commission or Secretariat General. We need to see the two as being intertwined from the very beginning. We want to have growth, but we know that society cannot grow inevitably. A society that grows forever threatens its own future. Innovation is the code which governs the way growth works and if that code does not work, we need a new code. We therefore need new ways of compensating work – it must not just be monetary compensation. We need new incentives for work and progress. Earning money is great when you are poor, but when you increase your income to a certain point, your happiness does not increase directly in proportion to your increasing income. We therefore need to find new incentives and we need to have new growth. We need a new type of religious credo in our society because we have not been able to find ways of getting these things to work. In all sorts of indexes on happiness and human satisfaction, France is ranked 70th place and Germany is not far, whereas poorer societies often rank at the very top in terms of personal satisfaction. This raises the question, what are we doing wrong? Can we continue to measure happiness in terms of wealth and GDP? How do we measure overall satisfaction and not just GDP? I think this will require a revolution in culture and social sciences and natural sciences. We have to make that approach widespread in our society. A General Secretariat of exact sciences and the soul is what we need. In fact, we need a new Enlightenment”

Illustration: Richard-David Precht at the Forum d'Avignon