Philosophical Practice

About Us

JC van der Merwe

“Philosophy never ceases to be understood as an art whose tools are arguments, an art in which precise reasoning, logical rigor, and definitional precision have an important role to play. But the point of these devices, and of philosophy insofar as it is wedded to them, is understood to be, above all, the achievement of flourishing human lives” (Martha Nussbaum). 

Profile

All people address ordinary philosophical issues in their everyday lives. I am fascinated by the process involved in getting to know and interpret one’s own view of reality as well as those of other people. Philosophical self-understanding can lead to a new appreciation of the power of reflective thinking applied to oneself and assist in discovering, questioning and examining the assumptions on which any particular argument and or belief in any particular context is based. A particular interest of mine is the process involved in ethical and moral decision-making and the critical examination of the reasoning behind a specific point of view. My research work is interdisciplinary, focusing primarily on ethical decision making, world-view interpretation, anti-racism work, transformation and institutional change. 

About

After completing degrees in Theology, and Philosophy from the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, I joined the Department of Philosophy in 1999 as a lecturer and later on became the chair. I was subsequently instrumental in setting up the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, which later evolved to the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, where I served as the Deputy Director for several years. Over the last 15 years, I have mediated many critical incidents relating to transformation work, and facilitated institutional change on various decision-making levels from grass root to senior management. I now live in Johannesburg, where my practice is based. I am a certified practitioner with, and member of, the American Philosophical Practitioners Association as well as a research fellow with the Free State Centre for Human Rights at the University of the Free State. 

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Dionne van Reenen, Ph.D

“I was never aware of any other option but to question everything” (Noam Chomsky). 

Profile

Regarding my philosophical interests, I am particularly drawn to theory that examines different processes of how we understand and make cognitive links between what is (natural), what can be (normal), what should be (normative) and what is best (ideal). These processes are often perceived to be innocuous, but it is interesting how heavily they influence our own positioning in the world as well as how we position people and contexts around us. I tend to take systematic approaches to analysis – usually beginning with locating a particular problem or phenomenon in a “philosophical neighbourhood”. In our practice, we usually interact with colleagues, clients and groups in order to exchange different lenses or perspectives to search for more nuanced possibilities and deeper examination towards workable resolution and progress. It has been my experience that clarity and understanding most often comes from open questioning and free dialogue mixed with a little courage to “put everything on the table”, so to speak. 

About

I grew up in KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast of South Africa. After completing high school, I moved to Cape Town to study dance at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) music faculty. My first career was in the performing arts until I started a family, after which I taught elementary and high school. During this time, I studied a BA (Hons) majoring in Philosophy and Logic at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and then completed a master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of the Free State (UFS), where I have worked since 2009. I have lived on my husband’s farm with our five children since 1994. After lecturing at the UFS Philosophy Department, I moved to the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice where much of my work involved research, writing, dialogue, consultation and policy work, which I seemed to fall into naturally, possibly because of a solid critical training. Apart from having my own practice, I am a research fellow with the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the UFS and a fellow of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. I also lecture and supervise graduate students, mostly in the area of body politics, representation, media cultures, human rights, gender and sexuality. 

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