André Klukhuhn: Combine reasoning with the art of feelings?


André Klukhuhn has studied the wonders of the world, first as a chemist and physicist, later also as a philosopher. In 2003, his great book “The history of thought” was published, which appeared in a completely revised edition in 2013. In 2008 he published the successful book “All people are called Janus”. Both books were philosophical bestsellers. In his book Klukhuhn holds a passionate plea for generalism. As the world becomes more specialized, in his conviction we loose knowledge. “We desperately need generalists, if only to keep track. I think it is never good as a scientist remains in his armor. Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on a geological theory and an economic theory. If he had limited to biology, he never got to where he came.”

He worked for more than thirty years at Studium Generale, the stage for reading and discussion of the University of Utrecht, and organized a few thousand symposia, discussions and conferences on the most varied subjects. 


If you are in a bookstore looking at the category Philosophy you will easily notice his Magnus opus ‘the history of thought’. Academic philosopher Andre Klukhuhn is the best man to talk about new ways to set a question. A short interview with one of our main actors in the conference.

“In my contribution, I will state that the human brain – which is the seat of our consciousness – is divided in two hemispheres. The left hemisphere is specialized in rational, analytical, deterministic or scientific processes – piecemeal thinking – and in creating an image of the outer world in which we live. The right hemisphere is more inclined to emotional, intuitive or artistic processes – holistic thinking – and informs us about our inner world, or ‘how it is to exist in the world’.”

Are people more focused at one way of thinking? “Both hemispheres are permanently active and a person is at any time capable to choose between the two approaches in case a question must be answered or a problem has to be solved: a rational approach or an emotional approach.”

Is it that simple, so binary? “No, this may automatically lead to a third kind of brain process that can be called philosophical. For if there is a possibility to choose between a scientific or artistic approach for example, there must be something that can make the choice. The assignment of a philosopher in this ‘three-cornered affair’ is not to ‘be’ a scientist or an artist, but to be capable of thinking ‘as if’ he or she is a scientist or an artist.”

And how about empathy? “My definition of empathy is not to ‘be’ somebody else, but think or feel ‘as if’ being somebody else. The three different ways of thinking relate to each other in what in mathematics is called a self-referential strange loop: we are looking in a ‘scientific’ way at an outer world of which we are at the same time ‘artistically’ part of. But science nor art and not even philosophy can know ‘everything’ and the extensive area of knowledge that is left open can be called ‘mysterious’, ‘mystic’ or ‘religious’.”

So, there are four ways of thinking? “Every person with brains and consciousness is capable of being scientist, artist, philosopher and mystic at the same time; and the best way of approaching and answering questions or solving problems is using all four mental faculties together.