What Kinds of Things Count as Philosophy?


Academic philosophers in Anglophone Ph.D.-granting departments tend to have a narrow conception of what counts as valuable philosophical work. Hiring, tenure, promotion, and prestige turn mainly on one’s ability to write an essay in a particular theoretical, abstract style, normally in reaction to the work of a small group of canonical historical and 20th century figures, on a fairly constrained range of topics, published in a limited range of journals and presses. This is too narrow a view.

So says Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) in a post at The Splintered Mind. He notes the “recency and historical contingency” of today’s favored philosophical medium, the journal article, as well as the form and presumed audience of philosophical work. He writes:

Nor need we think that philosophical work must consist of expository argumentation targeted toward disciplinary experts and students in the classroom. This, too, is a narrow and historically recent conception of philosophical work. Popular essays, fictions, aphorisms, dialogues, autobiographical reflections, and personal letters have historically played a central role in philosophy. We could potentially add, too, public performances, movies, video games, political activism, and interactions with the judicial system and governmental agencies…

I urge our discipline to conceptualize philosophical work more broadly than we typically do.

Read the whole thing here.

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