Seel Gerhard – Doctor of Philosophy, former Director of the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Bern (1989–2006), now – Professor emeritus of Philosophy of the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Bern (Switzerland); Secretary General of the ‘International Academy for Philosophy of Art’; a Member of the Steering Committee of FISP.
Since the end of the 18th century philosophy has been going through an identity crisis which threatens its very existence. This crisis is due to the emancipation of the empirical sciences in the course of which philosophy has lost nearly all its traditional objects. We first examine four traditional ways to overcome this crisis: (1.1) philosophy as the all embracing universal science, (1.2) philosophy as a priori knowledge, (1.3) philosophy as common sense, (1.4) philosophy as small talk. We show that these conceptions have grave shortcomings and therefore are not convincing. Instead we propose the following conception of philosophy: philosophy has to put and to answer radical questions, questions that spring from the conditions of human existence itself. We finally justify this conception by a reflection on the history of philosophy and an analysis of the deep motivation of its founder, Socrates. This leads us to the insight that to engage in moral philosophy is itself a moral duty.
Key words: philosophy, crisis, universal science, knowledge a priori, common sense, postmodernism, radical questions, aporia, transcendental arguments, Socrates, moral duty, moral reflection.