The Focus on Minutiae

Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) has published a new interview at his What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? site, this time with Florida State University’s David McNaughton.

The interview ranges over a wide range of aspects of McNaughton’s life, work, and views, and there are a few provocative claims in there, including:

Naturalism has reached epidemic proportions in USA, though I have never seen a decent argument for it.

But there was also one little line—apologies for focusing on it, but, well, you know—in response to a question about how he sees the future of philosophy:

I fear that the tendency to focus on minutiae and ignore the big picture will get worse.

I can hear Empedocles, in his day, saying the same thing about the future of chemistry.

Is McNaughton right? Is this a tendency, and is it something to fear?

And if it is a tendency, who are the philosophers today who run counter to it?

The whole interview is here.

Justin Weinberg, "Hibiscus"

Justin Weinberg, “Hibiscus”


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Alexus McLeod
7 years ago

I’m not sure whether he’s right about that- it’s hard to know what direction philosophy will take in this uncertain period for academia in general. I suspect that institutional concerns will play a larger role in determining how focused on minutiae we are in the future. I can say however that my own work runs all the way counter to it. But I’m nobody. 🙂

7 years ago

“Naturalism has reached epidemic proportions in USA, though I have never seen a decent argument for it.”

Definitely true – naturalists tend to be dogmatists. (Though, if we understand “naturalism” in Michael Rea’s sense, then this should not be seen as a problem, since, on his understanding, naturalism is a research program.)

Kate Norlock
7 years ago

Thank you for linking to this interview, a pleasure to read. I imagine that by a tendency to minutiae, David meant (among other things) the increased prioritization of journal articles and the proliferation of journals generally. The number of journals continues to increase, as has the pressure to publish in a worsening job market, and the demand for measurements of ‘knowledge mobilization’ and impact in higher ed. Adding to such a supply of original contribution may necessitate locating smaller and smaller points to contribute.

If that is one of the things he means by a tendency to minutiae, then I have to agree it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Chris Rawls
Chris Rawls
7 years ago

Add to Kate’s insights above that the past decade has seen a massive shift in the use and exploitation of part time or contingent faculty. There needs to be more FT and tenured faculty helping with this inhumane problem in the discipline.