When we have conflicts or problems, we try methods of introspection, which can easily move towards an examination of what is right, what is our motive, what is our purpose. We learn to question ourself because as a child we were told by our parents that we do not always get what we want, that we are sometimes in error in our thinking or emotions, or that we sometimes lack the complete story to arrive at the correct conclusion. In short, our private logic is inconsistent with reason or common sense. We continue to question ourself as an adult because experience confirmed that those adults were often correct, we often have reasons to compromise in business or social interactions, and we may even seek therapy or self-help books that offer methods to better understand ourselves. In contrast, outrospection is a rather philosophical pursuit: to understand ourself through understanding otherness, humanness, and building towards a more universalized perspective. When we make an effort to understand other logical systems, ethics, motivations, desires, and priorities, we develop a more global understanding of reason and humanness. In the process, we become better equipped to understand, question, and prioritize our own way of living, thinking, and being.
Kant (1781) discussed his concept of immanente Kritik, which posits that it is necessary to go outside of a system in order to define its essence, its limitations, its benefits and its detriments. This is easier said than done. Think of the capitalist competitor, the dogmatic voter, the religious devotee, or the sexist man: they believe what they have always believed or what they have learned from experience, so taking the perspective of other has never been necessary or desirable, and they even have a comfort and nostalgia for what they know that promotes a fear of the foreign. And as science fiction stories often address, awareness that you are within a system is not enough to remove yourself from the system: that takes work.
Those who excessively practice introspection, read self-help books, or fall into a habit of talking about theirself can be at risk of reinforcing their own subjectivity. We want others to acknowledge us, to care about what we have to say, to make us feel special. We easily forget to do the same for others, taking interest in who they are, which can lead to more global thinking if we ask about their self in order to understand difference and sameness, rationality, desires and motivation, or finiteness.
There are a few methods we amateurs at life employ to live a life of outrospection. Empathy and sympathy are first, where we try to take on the perspective and emotions of the other in order to explore their experience. Travel is another method, emerging as much as possible from one environment by exposing the self to otherness. Watching or participating in debates is another method, playing with ideas and consequences to see how they work, how to attack and defend them, and how the positions are more than one dimensional. But all of these methods have the potential to be either self-indulgent or challenging to preconceived and defended beliefs. What makes the difference between these two possibilities is attitude: whether the self is open to new ideas or protective of its own being.
In philosophical practice, we use a few methods to provoke an open attitude and nurture exposure to otherness. We use texts from various times and cultures to play with multiple possible interpretations and expand our thinking. We identify presuppositions and problematize them, demonstrating that what we may assume as fact is not universally recognized. We practice with each other, taking turns leading workshops, inviting feedback from the others as well as expanding our own techniques from others’ innovations, and being participants, open to exercising our thinking and testing our ideas. We maintain daily thinking, writing, and dialogue habits, seeking inspiration from texts and routine experiences, looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary, and writing about ideas to explore how they work.