After leaving high school, Dr. Richard Maundrell immediately entered the workforce, where he remained for about three years. It was during this time that he began reading books about philosophy, which awakened his interest and convinced him to go to university. He enrolled at Lakehead University in 1977.
His interests at the graduate level were in continental philosophy, primarily Heidegger and Sarte; however, all that changed after he finished his PhD.
“My PhD was on Sarte – but it was on Sarte’s political philosophy,” explained Maundrell. “That is what got me into analytic philosophy. Political philosophy as a topic got me into reading [about] more analytic approaches.”
As to which philosopher had the greatest impact on him, Dr. Maundrell said that, “it has probably been different people at different times,” and that at one point this was probably Heidegger until he grew to know his philosophy too well.
“My thinking has changed considerably, but over time the one that impresses me the most is David Hume.”
Recalling that a friend had asked if Hume was an “inspiration,” Dr. Maundrell added, “It’s not so much inspiration as this sort of kindred spirit thing that I feel when I’m reading Hume. Over time I’ve developed more respect for Hume and the power of his ideas and the continuing relevance of his ideas as time goes by.
“That means that I am in the critical side of philosophy rather than the idealist side or the speculative side. Philosophy has two functions: one is the skepticism – the negative work of criticizing things; and then there is the positive side – the system building, the speculative, the Platos and the Hegels who try to put together a big picture.”
“I guess there are two things,” said Dr. Maundrell on his kindred spirit with Hume. “There are ideas and then there is the person. So a lot of philosophers, on a personal level, I have a great deal of difficulty identifying with them.
“I can’t relate to someone like Hegel or Karl Marx – the things they wrote were influential and I found them interesting but the men themselves I can’t relate to. They come from a time and a culture that is certainly not mine. They aren’t people I would be particularly interested in meeting if I had the opportunity – but Hume is a guy I wouldn’t mind having a beer with.”
Photo by Emma Smith.