More On Whether Philosophy Has Lost Its Way
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, the digital wing of the journal Social Epistemology, has featured an exchange of short articles in the wake of “When Philosophy Lost Its Way” by Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle (both of University of North Texas), an article we previously discussed a couple of times. The exchange is between Luke Maring (Northern Arizona) and Frodeman and Briggle.
It begins with Maring’s “Abandoning the Academy is the Single Worst Thing Philosophers Could Do,” and continues with a reply from Frodeman and Briggle, with further remarks here and here.
Maring makes a number of good points, including:
First…. most of us spend most of our professional lives working with students who will become lawyers, business owners, accountants, or engineers. Our students become the very public we allegedly fail to reach. So if we want to make a bigger public impact, we should try to make philosophy a bigger part of college curriculums. We should try to make undergraduate education more affordable. We should bring philosophy to more students by creating interdisciplinary programs with a substantial philosophical core. Colleges and universities are probably the most effective delivery mechanism for philosophy in history…
Second, we do not need to abandon the academy to achieve Frodeman and Briggle’s aims. There is within the academy a growing commitment to writing for non-philosophers…
Third, the thought that every (or even most) philosophical articles or books should directly impact the public misunderstands the nature of academic research. It is rare, in any academic field, for the individual researcher to make a huge public impact. But that does not mean our small individual efforts are pointless: we create the milieu that makes really impactful work possible.
My thanks to Daily Nous for picking up on this exchange. If any Daily Nous readers would like to write a piece —Maring’s initial response, http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2LL, offers an example—about the future of philosophy, about the exchange itself, and/or about Frodeman and Briggle’s original article (and Scott Soames’s reply) in the NYT, please get in touch with me ([email protected]).Report
Maring argues persuasively that philosophers should not abandon the academy. That being said, philosophy has lost its way up to a point. Maring is right that the students we serve are members of the public. I’m sure we all share his desire to attract more students to philosophy and to see tuition lowered. But that doesn’t yet say anything about our research. Maring is also right that there is a growing acceptance in the academy of the importance of philosophy written for the general public. However, while progress is being made, such work is still woefully undervalued. Maring is again right that a work not need directly impact the public to be important research. However, philosophers tend to forget about the importance of impacting the public at all, to the point that work written for the general public tends to be dismissed as unimportant.Report
If philosophy has lost its way then I’m not sure I can see how improving its image with the public is going to help. Marketing begins with the product, not the promotion, and this focus on promotion rather than product would be a poor approach to marketing in a business context. When anyone I speak to says that philosophy has lost its way they do not mean that it promotes itself badly.Report
IF the producer ever forgets to deliver the product to the customer, there is a problem with the system. It would be a shame if a producer forgot the customer and thought that they worked for their own benefit, just producing stuff for themselves and fellow members of their producing profession to enjoy.Report
Yes. Not sure that the ‘IF’ is structurally necessary.Report
Surely it’s incorrect to say that philosophy has lost its way? Philosophy of itself does not have a goal for itself. So the question should be, “Have philosophers lost their way”, for which the answer is probably, to a large extent, yes.Report
I bowed out of academia rather than pursue a PhD, and settled for the MA and an unrelated job. I taught as an adjunct for a while and loved it, primarily because I got to enthusiastically talk about philosophy to community college students.
It was always clear to me that the job of a philosophy professor was to split time between the higher and lower levels of the discipline. The higher level being the specialized research and graduate teaching, the lower level being undergrad courses and evangelizing to the public. I would have been thrilled to do both, but now I do the latter half of the latter, in my spare time. I take pride in it, and I will always see value in it.
The comment above is correct. Philosophy has never lost its way, it’s just that some philosophers have chosen to do half of their jobs.Report
I would love to talk more about your experiences. If you’d like to correspond you can find my contact information on my website.Report
Please see (posted on 3/28) Derek Bowman’s “Philosophy Hitherto: A Reply to Frodeman and Briggle” http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2NvReport
Today (3/29) I posted Steve Fuller’s “A Mode of Doing or a Mode of Being? Philosophy at the Crossroads” on the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2OQ). I invite readers of Daily Nous to comment (in the comments section) and/or to develop, a more sustained reply. If interested in a sustained reply, please contact me ([email protected]).Report
Another turn in this exchange posted on 3/30: “Toward New Virtues in Philosophy: A Reply to Derek Bowman”, Bob Frodeman and Adam Briggle (http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2P1).Report