Bryan Frances thinks that there are several indicators suggesting that we’re at the start of a “golden age of philosophy.” These indicators include:
- Much greater knowledge of the individual empirical sciences plus the attempt to use them in approaching philosophical problems
- Much greater knowledge and use of formal sciences such as math, logic, formal semantics, and decision theory.
- Much larger community of professionally trained philosophers.
- Much greater philosophical communication among the members of the philosophical community.
- Adoption of the group approach to philosophical topics (as in science); almost no geniuses working in isolation.
- A commitment to “plainer” philosophizing: use of straightforwardly valid arguments (subtle equivocations aside), elimination of disambiguations, better explanations of jargon, less use of jargon, etc. (this holds for some subfields more than others).
- Much greater access to philosophical works, historical and contemporary.
- More tolerance for a great diversity of views.
I agree that these are indeed all good signs. We could use a better sense of what a “golden age” in philosophy might be. Previous eras might be characterized as “golden ages” because of the number of individual philosophers whose works have come through history’s filter as “great.” If we’re in or on the precipice of a golden age in philosophy, I doubt it will be best marked by more “great individual thinkers,” but perhaps by more higher-quality philosophy, and perhaps by growing consensus on a few issues.
Are we in or heading towards a golden age in philosophy? Are there other relevant indicators Frances overlooks? And what is a “golden age of philosophy” anyway?
Something I posted last year may be relevant to this discussion:
What can get in the way of recognizing great things?
(a) There are so many great things that the great things no longer stand out by being rare.
(b) The great things aren’t produced by the people you’d expect.
(c) The great things aren’t yet seen as the kind of thing you’re looking for.
(d) You do not understand or are not aware of other things that help explain why these great things are great.
(e) The great things have not had time to make their greatness easily apparent.
(f) You do not like these great things.
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