The Purification of Philosophy

The Purification of Philosophy


[The] institutionalization of philosophy made it into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting. This fact represents one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy.

So argue Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle (both of University of North Texas). Philosophy’s institutionalization in the modern research university was a kind of “purification” of philosophy.

This was the act of purification that gave birth to the concept of philosophy most of us know today. As a result, and to a degree rarely acknowledged, the institutional imperative of the university has come to drive the theoretical agenda. If philosophy was going to have a secure place in the academy, it needed its own discrete domain, its own arcane language, its own standards of success and its own specialized concerns.

Frodeman and Briggle argue that “philosophy should never have been purified.” Philosophy is really “present everywhere, often interstitial, essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature,” but institutional forces have turned it into a science-envious failure detached from the society.

They also bemoan the separation of philosophical inquiry from the goodness of a philosophical life:

The act of purification accompanying the creation of the modern research university was not just about differentiating realms of knowledge. It was also about divorcing knowledge from virtue. Though it seems foreign to us now, before purification the philosopher (and natural philosopher) was assumed to be morally superior to other sorts of people. The 18th-century thinker Joseph Priestley wrote “a Philosopher ought to be something greater and better than another man.” Philosophy, understood as the love of wisdom, was seen as a vocation, like the priesthood. It required significant moral virtues (foremost among these were integrity and selflessness), and the pursuit of wisdom in turn further inculcated those virtues. The study of philosophy elevated those who pursued it. Knowing and being good were intimately linked. It was widely understood that the point of philosophy was to become good rather than simply to collect or produce knowledge.

Readers may recall the essay, “The Complications of Philosophy,” by Tom Stern (UCL), which makes a similar point.

Frodeman and Briggle conclude:

Having become specialists, we have lost sight of the whole. The point of philosophy now is to be smart, not good. It has been the heart of our undoing.

The whole piece, “When Philosophy Lost Its Way,” appears in The Stone at The New York Times. Frodeman and Briggle blog at Philosophy Impact, and have a forthcoming book, Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy.

Discussion welcome.

ac filter 2

guest
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alo
Alo
5 years ago

It is not clear whether if philosophy were not institutionalized, it would not be as specialized as today. Even before mass tertiary education after WW2 serious philosophy was only familiar to a select, previliged few. That said, it is not at all clear that there would not be other economic forces that would altered one’s livelihood that marginalized philosophy anyway, such as pop culture, and the development of consumer goods. That said, it i not too late for philosophy to institutionalize itself and vie for power. Due to the fragmzented nature of the subject, doing so would be a great challenge but not insurmountable.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

I agree that philosophy has (generally) lost its way. A lot of philosophers don’t even seem to have a position on why what we do is important and why society should pay for it. Many seem to be cynical, not believing that there is a point. Others seem to treat scoring status points in the profession as the point of the profession. I think that Frodeman and Briggle are right that philosophy should help us to live well, but as a professional serving society, the philosopher’s primary goal is helping society to live well, not to live well personally. I disagree with Alo above that pop culture and the development of consumer goods have helped to marginalize philosophy and I’d be interested to know why Alo thinks that. It seems to me that pop culture and consumer goods give us excellent opportunities to reach out to the broader society we theoretically serve. Pop culture offers us a shared framework of examples and consumer goods can include books on philosophy.Report

AS
AS
5 years ago

Yep. And this is why those of us mostly interested in interdisciplinary work are SOL when it comes to jobs.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
5 years ago

They *say* these things. I don’t see them *argue* for these claims. Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
5 years ago

The authors seem to just assert that in the 19th C., philosophy became tied to the university setting too closely. But there was movements during that time period to reverse this very thing as already deeply entrenched. Read the Presidential addresses of Shadworth Hodgson to the newly formed Aristotelian Society in the late 19th century (especially the sixth one, on the relation of philosophy and the positive sciences). He spends quite a while discussing how specialized and university-bound philosophy has become these days, and how he has been trying to recruit all sorts of other members into this new group, the Aristotelian Society, which has the aim of being the first of its kind, a philosophy discussion group that is not tied to any academic institution. Those whose work does not fit nicely into the existing academic boundaries for subfields have had a hard time getting University posts for centuries (so, with Hume, you are at least in good company!).
Report

AR
AR
5 years ago

It is difficult for me to see why we should accept any of this picture. I’m not sure that there is nothing to it, but (as Crimlaw notes) we aren’t given much by way of evidence – merely some suggestive correlations, and a not quite spelled out view about what philosophy properly is. Even one case study would be helpful: one example of a position or development in philosophy that both is generated by academic disciplinarity and is motivated with the aim of the purification of philosophy (for the end of divorcing virtue and knowledge). An obvious candidate is logical positivism. Yet, logical positivism just seems a family of philosophical positions, worthy of consideration. It is very unclear that it wouldn’t have come to the fore in the early 20th century had philosophy not become an academic discipline – it was responding to a variety of intellectual pressures. Also, logical positivism has the result that we shouldn’t expect the philosophical life to be a virtuous one, but that is entailed by a position motivated by other considerations. We should also note that late 20th century philosophy saw the revitalization of political philosophy, normative ethics, and applied ethics in the academy. It is surely a controversial and demanding view of philosophy (with all kinds of contentious ethical/metaethical commitments) that it be the kind of practice that elevates all of its practitioners, but much of the concern of philosophy has been, in recent times, to elevate human society by taking moral issues head on. Of course, perhaps Frodeman and Briggle are right that philosophers should live distinctively virtuous lives as part of their philosophical practice. Some have thought so, and it may be a respectable philosophical position. Fine, but what’s the argument? The historical appeal is selective (they omit Hobbes, for instance), and in any case, we should be moved by substantive considerations. Report

Terence Blake
5 years ago

In their article, Frodeman and Briggle are not so much analysing a universal phenomenon as describing a local predicament. In France for example, despite the institutionalisation, something of the non-“purified” approach continues in people like Latour, Serres, even Badiou (as it did in the generation before with Deleeuze, Guattari, Foucault, Lyotard). This is what is good about the French tradition: its concern with language and with literary style, with conceptual creation, with avoiding specialisation, addressing a cultivated non-professional public, talking about real life, and keeping up to date with the contemporary world.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
5 years ago

Whether Frodeman and Briggle have their history right seems like a distraction from the main issues, which are whether the problem they see in modern philosophy is a real one and what might be done about it.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
5 years ago

While I appreciate Frodeman and Briggle drawing attention to the contingent and sometimes harmful institutional features of academic philosophy, I always find their account wanting.

For one, taking Socrates as our model should lead us to question not only the assumption that philosophy can only be seriously pursued in an academic setting, but also the idea that there was ever be a time “when philosophy could have replaced religion as the glue of society; but the moment passed.” The philosophy as gadfly will always be a pest to those hoping to get down to the business of everyday life, especially in unjust societies (which are the only one we’ve had acquaintance with).

For another, their own positive project of “field philosophy” begins by implicitly rejecting almost all of their critique of institutionalized academic philosophy. The “philosophy” that they are so confident can be usefully applied to other domains of life is the philosophy of academically trained specialists. This must be so not only because of Frodeman and Briggle’s own training and employment inside the academy. It must be so if their account of the history of philosophy is right, since that history has made philosophy “into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting.” And this also follows from their focus on “field philosophy” as an approach for “philosophers” understood as holders of advanced university degrees in philosophy (and often employed by universities). Whatever they make think of the history of the academization (academonizing?) of philosophy, they themselves implicitly endorse the resulting identification of philosophy as an academic discipline. (See, for example, their earlier discussions here: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/01/13/essay-problems-philosophy-academe and here: http://dailynous.com/2014/07/17/the-future-of-the-philosophy-profession/ )Report

Robert Frodeman
Robert Frodeman
Reply to  Derek Bowman
5 years ago

interesting points. Agree with you about the Macintyre. But there is nothing contradictory between this argument and our previous about field philosophy. We emphasize that we are pluralists, that academic training is useful and necessary. It’s just time to recognize and support working in the field. Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Robert Frodeman
5 years ago

Thanks for the reply (and for looking past the numerous typos in my previous comment). Here is the apparent contradiction:

In your negative remarks about contemporary philosophy, both in “When Philosophy Lost Its Way” (NYT) and the first half of “Socrates Untenured” (IHE), you and your coauthor present what appears to be a very radical critique of institutionalized academic philosophy – that it has fundamentally lost its way. But your solution of “field philosophy” does not address anything fundamental about philosophical training or about the identity of philosophy as an academic discipline. Instead you focus on a kind of philosophical practice that those with more or less existing academic training and institutional affiliation should engage in and support.

For example, compare these lines from your Stone piece:
“This institutionalization of philosophy made it into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting. This fact represents one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy.”

“As a result, and to a degree rarely acknowledged, the institutional imperative of the university has come to drive the theoretical agenda. If philosophy was going to have a secure place in the academy, it needed its own discrete domain, its own arcane language, its own standards of success and its own specialized concerns.”

with this line from your present comment:
“We emphasize that we are pluralists, that academic training is useful and necessary.”

If the institutionalization of philosophy as an academic discipline was as detrimental to philosophy as you and your co-author suggest in the Stone, how could academic training in the discipline-so-constituted continue to be not only useful, but *necessary*? When it comes time to advocate for “field philosophy,” you seem to think the discipline itself – as a domain of training in certain knowledge, traditions, and/or methods – is actually quite healthy; the only problem is that it keeps too much to itself. If you don’t think that, why think that academically trained philosophers have anything distinctive to offer that reflective and educated people in other disciplines do not, and why think that “academic training is useful and necessary”? Report

Michael Lynch
Michael Lynch
5 years ago

I find it ironic that the authors make this point at the very moment in which I (and I think many others) believe that “academic” philosophy is suddenly and vocally changing to become more interested, as a field, in the most pressing cultural issues of the day (such as income inequality, racial justice, big data and epistemic injustice). And I find it doubly ironic that they did so in one of the high-profile forums that has been on the forefront of this change (this being another). I don’t think philosophy is undone. I think it is being re-done. Report

Fred Herring
Fred Herring
Reply to  Michael Lynch
5 years ago

I read them as saying philosophy would be better if freed from academic specialization and the university structure. Wouldn’t that enhance philosophy’s ability to take on these pressing cultural issues? An implication of their argument is that we don’t require specialization of the kind we have now and so many types of people other than college professors can do philosophy. This would likely create greater participation and you’d have people come forward who are less homogenous in terms of race and class than your average clutch of philosophers. I.e., there’s a higher chance philosophical ideas would reflect a wider variety of life experiences and that de-professionalization would increase the participation of people with social identities that tend to be shut out of philosophical argument.

The discrete domain, arcane language, etc. they are concerned with are barriers to philosophers’ ability to connect with other disciplines who have been working on these ‘pressing cultural issues’ for some time (e..g, sociologists). Philosophers’ idea that they are doing something ordinary folk do not understand a main part of the problem they are talking about—ordinary non-philosophical folk tend to have some ideas about pressing cultural issues so if you are in favor of change, it would seem a positive development that philosophy opens up to their ideas. Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Fred Herring
5 years ago

“I read them as saying philosophy would be better if freed from academic specialization and the university structure.”

Yes, this would be a reasonable thing to think given the stance they take in this article. But see my exchange with Frodeman above. Report

Terence Blake
5 years ago

I don’t think one should focus on Frodeman and Briggle’s genealogy of academic philosophy until their book comes out. The history is quite sketchy and impressionistic, although not obviously wrong or implausibe – just incomplete. Nor is it even the main point. If I read the book (which I am eagerly awaiting) it will not be for the genalogy. My interest is more in its pluralism (pluralism with its awareness of contingence is often tied to a historical approach, but does not foreground it). I read the article more as a “mod” piece, and I do not think that we should conclude that the authors desire a regression to a dubious earlier state defined as philosophers being “better” people. What I get out of this piece is the concern for the lost link between philosophy and modes (and the plural is important) of life. This link is not universally lost in academic philosophy, but it is by no means massively present. Another point is the need for not just interdisciplinarity (which would already be a good thing) but what Guattari called, and practiced as, “transversality” (a few decades ago). Transversality is less oriented towards the academy, more pluralist in the fields and paradigms mobilised, and more practice-oriented – and thus a little more democratic, addressing people as citizens rather than as experts.

Frodeman and Briggle do not condemn everything about academic philosophy, and so their desire for academically-formed philosophers in the field does not comport any contradiction. For example, one of the things that one learns in philosophy at the university (but not only there) is a language (or family of languages) and a huge array of conceptual distinctions, with a useful vocabulary and set of examples and paradigm discussions employing these distictions. I have at times “left” philosophy, sometimes for many years, and when I come back to it, even in a not so inspiring academic lecture that I happen to sit in on, it is always with a feeling of coming home (even though I was trained in philosophy in Sydney Australia and I am now living in Nice France). Philosophy is my language.

As such, philosophy is an integral part of my sensibility, of my understanding of life, and of my life choices. My reading of Feyerabend helped me (and still helps me) understand my interactions with people and how to improve them. Due to reading Feyerabend I chose to move to France and to attend seminars by Gilles Deleuze and Michel Serres (both pluralists). Deleuze and Serres have helped me understand my love-relations and live them better (joys and quarrels), my institutional positions, and my tastes in reading and writing. Foucault has helped me in understanding job-interviews and other encounters (as has Feyerabend). Reading Deleuze helped me choose my sporting activities (kung fu, tai chi) and to understand what is going on and to approach them more deeply. Sometimes people ask me for advice, and I mix in fragments of Lyotard and Badiou. Philosophy for these thinkers is from the beginning, and at the deepest level, tied to processes of individuation and to creation or modulation of modes of life.

The thinkers I have named are part of my own “pocket pantheon”, and may not please others, but other pantheons probably produce similar experiences. They are only the tip of the iceberg. I could not have read them, and seen their relevance to my life, without having become familiar with a large amount of academic philosophy. The applications of philosophy in everyday life that I have mentioned are only a small part of the pervasiveness of philosophy in my perception of situations, in my thoughts, in my responses to what I see and hear and read. Most often this is spontaneous, I make no effort, philosophy has simply transformed me. In other cases, if I am confused or want to deepen my sentiments, I ask myself “What concept can I tie this to? Who has written something that can be made relevant to this?” I am not looking for a ready-made answer or programme. The impression I have is that in an obscure situation where I don’t know what to think or how to understand, if I can find just one little pertinent concept it will open the situation up to all the work that I have done on philosophy, and that philosophers have done before me. It may not give me an answer or a definitive analysis, but it usually gives me some freedom from the clichés and self-evident stereotypes that obscure my vision and paralyse my actions.Report

Terence Blake
Reply to  Terence Blake
5 years ago

Erratum: “mood” piece.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
5 years ago

The article seems about right to me. From the outside one sees little interest in philosophy as an area of knowledge as opposed to an area of employment. It has become stereotypically ‘academic’ as in ‘unreal’, and seems to be stuck up the creek without a paddle. A revolution seems like a good idea.

Report

AR
AR
5 years ago

In response to some of the comments above about how we shouldn’t care too much about the historical story, they say: “This was the act of purification that gave birth to the concept of philosophy most of us know today. As a result, and to a degree rarely acknowledged, the institutional imperative of the university has come to drive the theoretical agenda.” What is the argument for this claim? If the worry is that the institutionalization of philosophy is a problem, and the quoted statement describes a fact that shows institutionalization to be a problem, then we should want some evidence that the fact obtains. Here is an alternative story: philosophy is driven by autonomous concerns. Its institutionalization has permitted it to act on its own theoretical imperatives. Specialization is not an exogenous phenomenon, driven by institutional imperatives, it is a feature of ever more sophisticated interest in particular problems. Curious about epistemic justification? We now have a specialized literature because others have had similar interests. When someone makes a contribution to that literature, they may be partly writing an article because they have to make tenure, but the article has its character, topic, and content because of the philosophical interest of the problems it is addressing.

The alternative paradigm may not be the whole story (I have some doubts), but it is plausibly accounts for a good deal of what takes place in academic philosophy. (Especially if we are to imagine that academic philosophers, you and I, are acting in good faith and are responding to what is philosophically puzzling.) If the alternative paradigm is even largely correct, then we should be less concerned that there is something fundamentally awry. Philosophers do what philosophers do.

Perhaps the worry, as is suggested by the point concerning virtue/knowledge, and other comments emphasizing cultural relevance, that academic philosophy doesn’t engage the world sufficiently. First, I’m not sure this is true. Again, we need an argument beyond a mere impression. As Michael Lynch points out above, significant philosophical attention is now being paid to a host of worldly problems. Second, it is not obvious to me that all of philosophy needs to be relevant to cultural critique, practical ethics, social justice, living well, and the like. Surely philosophy should say something about these matters (and it does, and is), but surely we can legitimately wonder about how to understand modal claims, or whether moral utterances should be treated propositionally. These are curious items.

This gets to what really drives my itch about Frodeman and Briggle. They are not the pluralists (pace Terence Blake). They have a particular, apparently essentialist vision of what philosophy is, proper. Philosophy is about producing virtue, about being good, etc. – it is our *undoing* that we’ve lost the tight connection between philosophy and virtue. (Again, I dispute many of their factual claims about what happens in academic philosophy, but setting that aside…) I work in a pluralist department. We do not share a common vision of what philosophy is. We work on various things (sometimes virtue and the good) and when someone does good work, we can recognize it for what it is, as philosophically interesting and legitimate, if not corresponding to a particular member’s abstract vision of philosophy. Some of what my colleagues do has nothing, so far as I can tell, to do with cultural criticism (for instance). But it is no doubt philosophical, and they pursue it because it is philosophically interesting (many are tenured, and so overt pressures to pursue institutional agendas are quite limited), they want to understand. Here, the academy enables pluralism, both in not requiring a univocal understanding of the proper aims of philosophy, and permitting a plurality of work. Thus, whatever Frodeman and Briggle can say in favor of their vision, and I’m anxious to hear them say it, I don’t think pluralism is a point on their side. To me, their view of philosophy looks narrow and positively stifling. Of course, there are significant pressures in contemporary philosophy which push against pluralism, and there are many legitimate criticisms of current practices. I just don’t see how Frodeman and Briggle have articulated the proper critique.Report

quidnunc
quidnunc
5 years ago

Where I think the article blunders most is in its tendentious assumption that ideas discussed within academic philosophy don’t penetrate other disciplines or society. Not every topic of study has to be directly relevant to have later relevance. The outcomes of discussions which seemed like a lot of inside baseball 30 years ago have contributed to more sensible positions as some of the ideas have diffused into the zeitgeist. Their ahistorical point of view falls in the same trap as the politicians who insist we should prioritize the best short term economic outcome over basic research.

There’s also a self defeating aspect to the criticism in that they bemoan the science envy, pointing to the navel gazing in the discipline that would be better spent engaging socratic questions of a life well lived or the world we want (right now). That to me is a bad misdiagnosis. Much of what went wrong with the navel gazing in the discipline is narrow specialization that isn’t sufficiently interdisciplinary. The presumption that philosophy should turn away from the scientific view towards the good life or the world we want completely miss the relevance of science to those questions. For example in the last 20 years the “new science of morality” has combined insights from anthropology, primatology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, moral and political philosophy, political science, evolutionary, social, and cognitive psychology. Old abstractions, entities, descriptions, dichotomies, normative theories need to be reconsidered in light of new evidence and discussion.

Which of course doesn’t preclude public intellectuals, the joy of art and literature, knowledge from less systematic inquiry, practical problems, or political engagement. If the argument was for more diversity in approach then I would be in agreement. My philosophy 100 professor Mark Kingwell has a master in literature, is a public intellectual who has put a lot of thought into civility and everyday living. He’s a brilliant teacher, and his intro course (that I originally took to fulfil the humanities requirement in my computer science major) convinced me to pursue a minor in philosophy. But I would point out in reading his professional work that he’s drawing on insights from a variety of thinkers who don’t fit that mould. The argument in that article about western and analytic philosophy is so pastiche now it’s almost a genre.Report

Wesley Buckwalter
Wesley Buckwalter
5 years ago

What is the relevant counterfactual for comparison, that philosophy never entered into the institution of an academy as a discipline of study? Despite some drawbacks of current academic operalization, common to all fields in one way or another, it is hard to see how this state would ultimately be more beneficial to philosophical inquiry. Also, what evidence is there that institutionalization caused either the social aloofness or retreat from focus of self improvement identified here? Some doubts about those things well before there were philosophy majors. Report

Avi Z.
Avi Z.
5 years ago

Philosophy has often been tightly connected to institutional academic structures. Perhaps one could see this already in the Platonic Academy. One could certainly go back to the institutional context of philosophy in the medieval universities and since. Within much of the history of philosophy within the European context, one could add an institutional layer of ecclesiastical power to the mix. Of course, there have always been some philosophers who managed to do work outside of an academic context, holding non-academic jobs in government, medicine, etc. Some, such as Hume, applied for but were denied academic positions. Perhaps what has made philosophy more professionalized today than ever before is the necessary qualification of the Ph.D or D.Phil. Inculcation of the ethos of professional philosophy generally happens during graduate school. It should be added that other disciplines, such as law and medicine also have millennia-old institutional histories, and yet have also recently undergone intense professionalization.Report

Luke Maring
Luke Maring
5 years ago

I am always suspicious of we-have-fallen-and-must-return-to-our-past arguments. They typically misrepresent both the past (by romanticizing it) and the present (by downplaying its virtues). For example:

(a) Any setting for philosophy, institutionalized or not, will have certain advantages and certain drawbacks. Whether philosophy is better or worse depends upon how these advantages and drawbacks stack up against each other. But Frodeman and Briggle merely gesture at the drawbacks, and they ignore the advantages altogether. Sometimes “arcane” philosophical language makes things clearer, technical arguments push debate forward, etc… We admittedly do not always do a great job of communicating our advances to the public. But it’s not clear that, given the advantages of institutionalization, peer-review, etc… we should dissolve the academy. We can simply add public outreach to a suitably improved version of our current institutional structure.

(b) Frodeman’s and Briggle’s idea that philosophers should strive for superiority creeps me the hell out. In a negative contrast to science, they write, “Science derives its authority [not from] the superior character of the scientist. The individual scientist is no different from the average Joe; he or she has, as Shapin has written, ‘no special authority to pronounce on what ought to be done.’ ” I hope we never, qua philosophers, presume any special authority to say what ought to be done. We should make arguments, and learn to make them in ways that the public can follow.

(c) As a philosopher whose job consists primarily of undergraduate teaching, I find Frodeman’s and Briggle’s characterization of the profession almost insulting. The NYT piece makes it seem as if we philosophers spend all our time arguing over unimportant technical minutia for the sake of cranking out publications. I spend most of time in conversation with people who will land well outside the academy. I teach my students ethics and critical thinking so that they can be better, more ethically aware lawyers, business owners, and the like. Moreover, my writing often springs from readings and discussions in my upper division classes. So it is simply false that my research activities are narrowly confined to a small cadre of academic philosophers. And I am not a special case: many (most?) of y’all are in positions that emphasize teaching.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
5 years ago

Hi Luke

You write ” So it is simply false that my research activities are narrowly confined to a small cadre of academic philosophers. And I am not a special case: many (most?) of y’all are in positions that emphasize teaching. ”

Okay. But is it not the case that you teach the ethics of a small cadre of academic philosophers? Or do you teach the ethics of the Buddha, Al-Halaj, Osho, Lao Tsu, the Upanishads, and so forth? My impression is that the teaching of ethics in universities involves precisely the pre-selection of a small cadre of academic philosophers. If I’m wrong then this is good news.

Report

Luke Maring
Luke Maring
Reply to  PeterJ
5 years ago

PeterJ,

Fair question. What I meant is that I don’t primarily interact with professional philosophers. But your point is well-taken: what we teach is another dimension along which we should worry about narrowness.

I confess that I’m not as familiar with non-western philosophy as I really ought to be. (Though, and this is my lame excuse, we have someone on faculty who does an excellent job teaching non-western stuff, and I was brought in to fill a teaching need in more ‘traditional’ ethics.) But I do make a point of teaching from a fairly wide range of sources: canonical stuff (e.g., Aristotle), new stuff (i.e., books or articles published in the last 10 years or so), and stuff that doesn’t typically make it into philosophy classes (e.g., Angela Davis).

I’m not sure if that qualifies as a small cadre. But I’m certainly cognizant of the problem, and working to get better.Report

Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Phoenix, son of Amyntor
5 years ago

Folks might find it interesting that Peter Singer comments on the essay.
*****
Peter Singer
Melbourne, Australia
January 11, 2016
It’s very strange that an article like this can ignore the impact philosophy is having on the contemporary world through the teaching of practical or applied ethics. To mention just the two areas in which I have been most involved, philosophers have played crucial roles in the rise of the modern movement to raise the moral status of nonhuman animals, as well as on the emerging movement of effective altruism. Every semester, I see the courses I teach change the lives of my students, who will in turn change the lives of others – and I know that among those who teach practical ethics, this is a common experience. Philosophers may, with few exceptions, have positions in universities, but through those positions, they have influenced, directly and indirectly, the lives of millions of people, and billions of animals.Report