Agnes Callard’s List of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be”


“There’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy.”

Agnes Callard’s office

That’s item #12 on a list of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be” that philosopher Agnes Callard (Chicago) offered up in a new interview at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?.

Interviewer Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) asks, “How is it not possible to be bad at philosophy?” Callard replies:

You can be good at something either by having mastered it or having a talent for it. Philosophy is unmasterable—there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise. As for talents, the ones I can think of—being quick with distinctions, being a good writer, being good at learning formal or natural languages—are double edged swords, because they make you easily divertible from the project of philosophizing. I think we project a talent for philosophy into anyone we respect as a philosopher to protect ourselves against the scary thought that it’s our own fault we’re not like that. In fact, nothing’s stopping us but ourselves.

Here’s her whole list:

  1. Socrates was not ironic.
  2. Plato wrote dialogues because that format is ideal for presenting arguments in premise-conclusion form.
  3. Aristotle’s enkratic person can (and, indeed, must) have phronesis.
  4. Aristotle’s pro-slavery stance runs deep into his ethics, not clear whether it can be excised.
  5. Kant’s ethics forms the basis of our strongest moral reactions.
  6. Nietzsche’s view of ethics as a way of justifying/sanctifying violence under the label of punishment is worth considering as a possible theory of punishment (and not just as Nietzsche scholarship).
  7. Fernando Pessoa was a philosopher.
  8. The idea of human rights is the most important achievement of humanity to date.
  9. It is not obvious that one should refrain from entering the experience machine.
  10. Reading literature can help you do philosophy, but only if you let yourself get carried away by the literature. Otherwise you just use the literature to dress up what you already thought philosophically.
  11. Philosopher is the best job in the world.
  12. There’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy.
  13. If you (truly, deeply) romantically love A you can nonetheless, while continuing to love A, fall (truly, deeply) romantically in love with B.
  14. We do not shape our children that much.
  15. It is good to have children.
  16. You haven’t really made a philosophical contribution until a caricatured, oversimplified version of your thought exists.
  17. Twitter is, all things considered, good for philosophy.
  18. When philosophers explicitly endeavor to chat non-philosophically, that is bad.
  19. Though it is true that pleasure is an activity rather than a feeling, no one really knows what that means.

She adds: “Of these, the one I believe most strongly is (12) and the one that comes closest to being something that should not be controversial at all is (3). The ones I would most like to persuade other philosophers of are (7), (17) and (18). The ones I would most like to persuade nonphilosophers of are (1), (12) and (13).”

The whole interview is here.

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Paul Whitfield
Paul Whitfield
1 year ago

7 is just great. The virtual absence of Pessoan scholarship in philosophy is such a loss.Report

William
William
Reply to  Paul Whitfield
1 year ago

Was curious to hear more about that, I’ve read “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis” which was really engaging and was about Pessoa, but I’ve never engaged with his works proper.Report

Bryan Frances
Bryan Frances
1 year ago

I gotta say: 12 is the most ridiculous thing I can remember hearing about philosophy. Hands down.Report

James Lee
James Lee
Reply to  Bryan Frances
1 year ago

If we interpret her claim that either talent or mastery is necessary for being good at philosophy, and if she is suggesting that her list of philosophical talents is exhaustive, then the argument is clearly unsound. It’s actually a surprisingly terrible argument given her stature in the field.Report

Jordan
Jordan
Reply to  James Lee
1 year ago

I don’t think she’s suggesting that — she only says they’re the “ones she can think of” (I presume she means, “think of offhand while quickly answering these questions”). Her point is that it’s hard to think of any talents relevant to philosophizing that don’t also provide temptations to avoid the real task of philosophizing. Which sounds about right to me. Report

James Lee
James Lee
Reply to  Jordan
1 year ago

Even if we grant that there are a number of talents that Callard has not mentioned, it is still not obvious how you can infer that there is no such thing as being good (or bad) at philosophy. It does not follow from the claim that talents can be used in a counterproductive manner that no one can be good at doing philosophy. In fact, the very point that talents are a double edged sword strongly suggests a distinction that can be drawn between people who are good at doing philosophy (i.e. people who use talents appropriately) and people are not good at doing philosophy (i.e. people who use their talents in a manner that digresses from philosophizing.)Report

Jordan
Jordan
Reply to  James Lee
1 year ago

Yes, I see your point. But I think the point runs a little deeper than that.

Think about it this way. When you say that we might just draw a distinction between people who are good at using their talents “appropriately” (where that means “in a way that doesn’t distract from the real task of philosophy”) and ones who are not, do you mean then to be pointing to a distinct, meta-talent whose presence makes one good at philosophy? If so, then run the same argument — this meta-talent, if it is to avoid being defined so specifically as to just beg the question, is likely itself to be the sort of thing that can be employed to divert one from really philosophizing. (Perhaps it’s something like the ability to withstand strong temptations; but philosophy might sometimes require that you give in to temptations.)

My guess is that her claim is really a sneaky way of invoking a relatively existential idea of what it means to do philosophy (derived from Socrates, no doubt). Philosophy is not a settled body of knowledge, nor even a settled body of questions, but the constant, dogged pursuit of wisdom, of trying to live in such a way that one’s overriding concern is to know whatever it is that is most important for us to know. Talents properly employed can of course help along the way, but possession of them only makes you good at a particular challenge that the philosophical life might pose for you. There is no telling what further challenges it might pose for you, for which having seriously developed that talent might well turn out to hold you back.

Now, maybe there is *some* telling what further challenges it might pose. Maybe you think that philosophical questions can all be understood as sharing some common form or subject matter. If that were true, there might well be an accompanying talent to handle well questions of that form or about that subject matter. I’m betting this is where the real disagreement lies.Report

Jordan
Jordan
Reply to  Jordan
1 year ago

Perhaps another way to put it — one might think the following is true:

Philosophy is related to life in such a way that the fact that there is no such thing as being good at life in general implies that there is no such thing as being good at philosophy in general.Report

Jordan
Jordan
Reply to  James Lee
1 year ago

Perhaps another way to put it — one might think the following is true:

Philosophy is related to life in such a way that the fact that there is no such thing as being good at life in general implies that there is no such thing as being good at philosophy in general.Report

James Lee
James Lee
Reply to  Jordan
1 year ago

Here’s how I interpret Callard’s claim:

To say that there is no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy implies that the activity of doing philosophy is one that is not evaluable. If this is the case, then there are several possible consequences.

1. Philosophizing as an activity is a poorly understood or woefully underspecified notion. We just don’t know what it means to philosophize. Since we are not clear on what this means, we cannot evaluate the activity. Consider your example about being good at life. I have difficulty understanding what it means to be good at life “in general.” Does this mean being good at surviving and reproducing? Does this mean good at living the American Dream? Does it mean being virtuous?

If this is what Callard is suggesting, then I don’t really see where there is any controversy. Most would recognize that there are a variety of skill sets that are associated with philosophizing. If we do not disambiguate the term “philosophize” so as to specify a skill set, then yes, there is no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy. However, once we stipulate that philosophizing is doing x, y, and z, then her #12 is false, just as if we were to stipulate that being good at life means maximizing pleasure, then the claim that there is no such thing as being or bad at life becomes false.

2. Philosophizing as an activity has no purpose or function. Evaluating an activity only makes sense when you consider the goal to which the activity is directed towards. Since philosophizing has no telos, it cannot be evaluated as either good or bad. This is interpretation seems wildly implausible You said above that philosophy could be pursued as a dogged pursuit of wisdom. If this is the case, then philosophizing has a function, and is thus surely evaluable. There are those that are good and those that are bad at pursuing wisdom. Isn’t it the case that Plato (or Socrates) thought the Sophists were bad at pursuing wisdom, and thus bad at philosophy according to this construal? I’m far from an Ancient scholar, so I may be mistaken.

3. Philosophy is not an activity, but rather a body of knowledge. Since it is not an activity, saying that an individual can be good or bad at it would be a category mistake. Now, you said yourself that philosophy is not a body of knowledge, so it seems that we can dismiss this interpretation out of hand. However, it seems that Callard defines mastery partly in terms of a body of knowledge. She claims that philosophy is unmasterable because there is no (settled?) body of knowledge that would ground the expertise. this is a weird claim (although i often see it suggested). Why should mastery of philosophy be necessary associated with any particular body of knowledge? Suppose that the term “mastery” refers to some relatively high level of proficiency. Suppose also that by knowledge, Callard means propositional knowledge. Now consider the following statements.

Violin playing is unmasterable – there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise.
Basketball playing is unmasterable – there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise.

I don’t think anyone believes that the first part of these statements is true on the basis of the second part. So why should we believe this to be the case for philosophy? What does a body of propositional knowledge necessarily have to do with the achievement of philosophical mastery?Report

WiseGuy
WiseGuy
Reply to  Bryan Frances
1 year ago

Wonderful interview.
And not surprised by #12. I thought she’s saying that we’re all *potentially* just as good in doing philosophy (hence, she talks about our “fault” in presumably not actualizing the potential). Isn’t that basic Socratic wisdom? Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Bryan Frances
1 year ago

It’s, above all, one of the first things anyone’s ought to have learned from Socrates/Plato. Maybe not true, but most ridiculous is kind of uncharitable.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

I think it’s pretty clear that Socrates is better at philosophy than his interlocutors.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  sahpa
1 year ago

I don’t dispute that, but I don’t think it’s pretty clear that Socrates didn’t hold a view like the one that Callard is alluding to. Whether or not you agree with her or him, it’s not the most ridiculous view in the world.Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  sahpa
1 year ago

He’s better at seeing the implications of what they say than they are. And he uses that skill when he philosophizes. But that skill is itself more general than anything that might be the skill of doing philosophy.

Socrates philosophises _more_ than his interlocutors, but maybe not _better_.Report

Alex
Alex
1 year ago

#8 suggests that she is unaware of the fact that we went to the moon.Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  Alex
1 year ago

She also must not have an iPhone.Report

Brian K
Brian K
1 year ago

For the record, the title is pretty misleading. Though the question is, “In philosophy, are there views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be, in your estimation?” Callard’s response explicitly rephrases it: “Hmm. That’s a high bar. Let me instead offer up some views that I think are true, and should be considered a lot less controversial than they are.” A much more modest claim!Report

Nicole
Nicole
1 year ago

As to #12, apparently she’s unaware of the existence of Reddit–a realm where some philosophical insight can sometimes be found nested between the most off-the-wall, absurd, illogical trains of thought I have ever encountered. Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  Nicole
1 year ago

I just started going on Reddit a few months ago. Your description is perfect. Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
1 year ago

“Philosopher is the best job in the world.” Try saying that after teaching a 4/4 load of Intro courses for a few years!Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  Philodemus
1 year ago

I would guess the reply is that to the extent that you’re teaching intro courses, you’re not really being a philosopher. Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
1 year ago

So, how does grading work under 12?Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  J. Bogart
1 year ago

B- for everyone? Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Philodemus
1 year ago

No, a C for everyone! Even B- is within the ‘good’ range.

I really do wonder why anyone should study philosophy if it’s not the sort of thing one could be come good at. Hearing experienced, professional philosophers say things like this would, and does, raise questions in laypeople’s mind about how legitimate the discipline is.

Or is the idea that nobody is _naturally_ any better or worse at philosophy than anyone else? That, also, seems to be extremely doubtful, given the vast range of intellectual abilities human beings can be born with. There are many human beings who can never even learn to think in the abstract or understand that there are other people in the world. Can anyone actually hold that these are no impediments to doing philosophy? What’s going on here?Report

GradStudent1
GradStudent1
1 year ago

I’m very glad she mentions #9. Considered carefully, it’s hard to see why so many philosophers have a hung-up on this one. Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  GradStudent1
1 year ago

I think the natural explanation is just that they don’t consider it carefully!Report

Alastair Norcross
1 year ago

17 is the most obviously false claim. Twitter is, all things considered, not good for anything. A fortiori….Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
1 year ago

I sometimes think that just having a twitter account is a sign of deep moral failing. Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Philodemus
1 year ago

What if you have multiple, all under pseudonyms? One person’s moral failing is another’s Kierkegaard 2.0!Report

Ben Schall
Ben Schall
Reply to  sahpa
1 year ago

Or Pessoa 2.0…Report

Justin E. H. Smith
Justin E. H. Smith
1 year ago

Thank Zeus for Agnes Callard. She is such a breath of fresh air in the stifling atmosphere of American academic philosophy. She’s idiosyncratic, independent, brave, and weird. And she’s right about numbers 7, 10, 12, 16, and 18. Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
1 year ago

Why should being good at something require having (completely) mastered it? That seems an absurdly strong requirement. Tiger Woods hasn’t mastered golf — he doesn’t birdie every hole — but the last time I looked he was pretty damn good.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Tom Hurka
1 year ago

Maybe that’s because he has a talent for it. Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

She is absolutely right about #1. It astonishes me that anyone continues to think that Socrates is ironic. There is quite literally zero textual evidence for so-called “Socratic irony”. Kierkegaard invented it..Report

Not a classicist, but trying to keep up
Not a classicist, but trying to keep up
Reply to  Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

This isn’t my specialty, but from what I understand from the literature on irony and the literature on Socrates and Plato (there’s some overlap), ancient authors, and even contemporaries of Socrates, use the classical Greek word for irony (I don’t want to embarrass myself by mis-spelling it), although its early meaning was more or less ‘to lie’: pretending not to have a position while he had one, or not to know what they thought he did believe himself to know, etc. Perhaps I’m wrong; let an expert set me straight, if so. Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell

Thanks for the comment. You are correct that the Greek work “eironeia” does mean “to lie” and Socrates was certainly accused of “eironeia” in the dialogues, particularly by Thrasymachus in the Republic.. But the word “eironeia” did not mean what we mean by “irony” especially in the literary sense of a person saying the opposite of what they mean. The Greek term does eventually come to have this meaning as well but it gains this meaning in koine. In attic Greek, the Greek of Plato and Socrates, it simply means to lie. There is a small body of literature starting with Gregory Vlastos’s 1987 article on Socratic Irony that discusses the meaning and use of eironeia.Report

Socrates Fanboy
Socrates Fanboy
Reply to  Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

I suggest you revisit Thrasymachus’ comment at Rep. I.337a: “By Heracles, there’s that habitual eirôneia of Socrates.”
There’s more textual evidence than that as well in Plato and elsewhere. Now, whether Callard is right about interpreting this statement is up for grabs, but it benefits no one to misconstrue the debate.Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell
Reply to  Socrates Fanboy
1 year ago

Thanks for the comment, but the passage you offer and, I assume, the others you allude to do not constitute textual evidence of Socratic irony. The thesis that Socrates engaged in ironic behavior is and has always been the thesis that, when Socrates claims to have no knowledge of anything worthwhile, he does not mean what he says. There is no doubt that Socrates was accused of practicing irony by Thrasymachus and other interlocutors in and outside of Plato’s dialogues. But accusations are not evidence of practice. The debate over Socratic irony is a debate over whether or not Socrates did in fact practice irony and there is no textual evidence that he actually did so in Plato, Xenophon, or Aristotle. The kind of evidence one would need to prove Socratic irony would be some passage where Socrates claims not to know something that he elsewhere does claim to know and there are no passages of this kind anywhere.Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

To clarify, is Socratic Irony the idea that when he claims not to know certain things, he actually _means_ he does know, or is the idea that when he claims not to know certain things, he actually _believes_ he does know?Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell
Reply to  Kris Rhodes
1 year ago

Thanks for the question. I take it that most scholars have interpreted Socratic irony to be the thesis that Socrates does in fact have knowledge of what he denies knowing. So, it not a thesis about what Socrates believes he knows. He may have knowledge and not realize it. Even if we disambiguate the thesis as you have done, I not sure what difference it would make. Do you have some suggestion?Report

Socrates Fanboy
Socrates Fanboy
Reply to  Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

Hmm. That appears to establish too high of a bar of what counts as textual evidence. Prima facie, I would assume that several accusations of habitual irony by multiple interlocutors (e.g. Callicles and Thrasymachus and also Alcibiades at Symp. 216e) should count as evidence of Socratic irony. Maybe this evidence is inconclusive—i.e. that we cannot infer from these accusations that Socrates was indeed ironic in the relevant sense—but it still seems to me one has to justify this conclusion by dealing with these putative instances of irony.
But even on your view of what counts as evidence of irony, I’m interested in why you think the following doesn’t count as evidence of irony. Socrates claims at Apology 21d and 23b to have a human wisdom—i.e. to not claim to know what he doesn’t know and, later, to have a wisdom that is worth little or nothing. But at Symposium 177d Socrates claims to know love (ta erotika), and in Gorgias and Rep. I, Socrates implies he has knowledge of elements of justice (e.g. that suffering injustice is less harmful than committing it, that justice never harms, etc.). Assuming that knowledge of love and of justice are not worth little or nothing, does this qualify as irony on your view?
To reiterate, it very well may be the case that Socrates is indeed not ironic. My more central point was that there is evidence of Socratic irony (even given your understanding of it, which again seems restrictive to me). To hold Socrates is not ironic requires dealing with that evidence, not denying its existence. Thanks for the response.
Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell
Reply to  Socrates Fanboy
1 year ago

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my comment. I don’t understand why the evidentary standard I mentioned above is too high or restrictive. It seems to me to be too restrictive only if we assume that interlocutors such as Callicles and Thrasymachus are correct that Socrates is ironic. But this would beg the question. Again, if the question of Socratic irony is a question of Socratic practice, then the evidentary standard seems completely appropriate. I agree that Thrasymachus’ and Callicles’ accusation of irony is prima facie evidence of Socratic irony. But Socrates’ own claims disavowing knowledge are also prima facie evidence against irony. So we at least confront a conflict between the accusations of irony on the part of figures like Thrasymachus and Callicles and the denial of irony by Socrates. Who are we to believe? The only way I can see to resolve the conflict is to look for evidence of ironic practice: some passage where Socrates claims not to know something that he elsewhere does claim to know. As I’ve said there are no such passages whatsoever in any of the dialogues (or in Xenophon). If this standard is as restrictive as it is, then it is because of how Plato has written his dialogues. Furthermore, if the standard is too restrictive as you claim and we moderate it to some probabilistic interpretative standard, then the quantity of evidence against Socratic irony overwhelms the quantity of evidence for. Only two of the most antagonistic interlocutors in the dialogues provide textual evidence of Socratic irony and Socrates’s disavowals of knowledge run throughout every dialogue. There is even a lengthy discussion of whether Socrates means what he says in the First Alcibiades where Socrates explicit denies being ironic. (I’m aware of the status of this dialogue.) Remember the point of Callard’s list is to identify claims that she believes are true that should be much less controversial then they are. And it is this claim that I agreed with. Callard is correct that Socrates is not ironic and, given a close reading the dialogues, one would expect there to be much less controversy about Socratic irony than there has been.

As to the various passages you mention, in only the Symposium does Socrates explicitly claim to have knowledge of love. I’ll admit that I don’t know whether Socrates thinks that knowledge of love counts as knowledge that is worth something. (Is there a passage that I am unaware of? If so, then I am happy to stand corrected.) If knowledge of love is knowledge of something important, then I agree with you that 177d and adjunct passages would be evidence of Socratic irony. But I’m disinclined to read knowledge of love as worth something. The object of love, on Socrates’ account, is the form of the beautiful. Knowledge of the beautiful itself, I think we can agree, is knowledge Socrates believes is worth something. Socrates does not claim to have knowledge of the beautiful. His knowledge of love, however, is directed toward the beautiful. So, it seems to me that Socrates’ knowledge of love would not constitute knowledge of something important.

The other passages you mentioned may imply that Socrates has knowledge but there is room for different interpretations of the status of these remarks. For one, the Republic and Gorgias passages are both part of elenchic refutations and so are not obviously claims about Socrates’ own views. I don’t take the questions that Socrates asks or the implications he draws from what his interlocutors say as clear evidence of Socrates’ own views. At best they are evidence only of what the interlocutors think or agree to. He says so himself throughout the dialogues. Why should we doubt what he says?Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
Reply to  Geoffrey Bagwell
1 year ago

As a casual reader of the dialogues, I’ve sometimes had the impression that Socrates would say he didn’t know something, while actually believing but not saying, that there is nothing to know w.r.t. that thing. (Like someone might ask “what is Justice” while believing, but not saying out loud, that there’s no coherent concept of Justice.)

Without arguing as to whether Socrates was ever really doing that, I’m wondering whether this would count as Socratic Irony.Report

Geoffrey Bagwell
Geoffrey Bagwell
Reply to  Kris Rhodes
1 year ago

Thanks. I don’t feel like I completely understand your suggestion. On the other hand, It strikes me that what you are suggesting is not a case of irony in any sense of that term. If Socrates denies having knowledge because he thinks that there is nothing to know, then his denial would be sincere, wouldn’t it?Report

ehz
ehz
1 year ago

Anyone who holds a controversial view should think the view shouldn’t be controversial. Saying that these views shouldn’t be controversial doesn’t really add any content to stating that you hold these views.Report

Spencer Jay Case
Spencer Jay Case
1 year ago

I keep re-reading 12, wondering if I misread it, or if I’m failing to understand it. I can abide the view that no human being is especially good at philosophy. But some humans are obviously bad at it, and some are obviously less bad at it than others.

I know it’s usually not advisable to put the word “obviously” in any sentence that makes a philosophical claim, but I’m going with it.

I’m not sure how Twitter can be good for philosophy, if there’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy. Also Twitter is not good for philosophy.

Are these supposed to be koans like, “What was your face before your parents’ parents were born?” Am I supposed to go to the Zen master with my answers to these riddles, only to be slapped?

Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Spencer Jay Case
1 year ago

If you can’t find a Zen Master, Spencer, I’ll be happy to do the face slapping.Report

ehz
ehz
1 year ago

“19. Though it is true that pleasure is an activity rather than a feeling, no one really knows what that means.”

This sounds Moore-paradoxical to me.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
1 year ago

I’m not sure which was more striking — #12 or the exchange about meeting her current husband including declarations of love at end of term office hours. The latter seemed a strange question for this sort of interview though perhaps the question is regularly asked by this interviewer.
The issue of a power differential would have been an interesting follow up question. Given the thoughtfulness of this interview subject (who I do not know) I suspect her reflections on the topic would have been quite interesting and also different from what most philosophers say about the issue. Report

Kris Rhodes
Kris Rhodes
1 year ago

My experience is that philosophy is something that occurs to me. I can put myself into a mood in which philosophy occurs to me more frequently and intensely than at other times, and perhaps putting myself in that mood is a skill, but I’m not convinced this counts as being “good at philosophy.”

I’m only doing philosophy when I’m experiencing how radically unfounded everything is, and letting wild posssibilities result from that realization. Very often those radical possibilities are (frantic) attempts to provide a foundation, and a lot of what gets praised as good philosophy makes an appearance of accomplishing that kind of founding–but, again, the skill of articulating prospective foundations doesn’t feel like that’s what philosophy _is_ to me–to me doing philosophy is experiencing unfoundedness and allowing a rush of possibilities to fill in the empty space I’m experiencing. And, again: That’s something that occurs to me.

In school I learned a number of skills for articulating the results of these experiencing in a careful, controlled way that would make sense to a certain audience. And, again, doing that does not feel like it _is_ philosophy to me. (Struggling to do it in conversation feels closer. But whence the struggle? Because if what I’m saying is radically unfounded, it’s bound to be hard to express, especially if I’m trying to make it look really really founded.)

I do exactly the same thing when I write poetry, it’s just that means by which I show care, the audience I’m speaking to, and the things that I must control, are different. The experience and the rush is the same–and it’s something that occurs to me, not a skill I deploy.

Philosophy often leads to insight that helps me live a better life and helps me help others to see what a better life might look like. But, again, moving from the experience and rush to actual change of action seems external to the practice of philosophy. It’s something I do after philosophy occurs to me.

I conjecture that any plausible proposed collection of skills that together comprise “skill at doing philosophy” (except for an undefined phrase like “skill at doing philosophy”) will have the following property: It is possible–in fact I’ll conjecture actual–that people exercise all those skills in exactly the same way you are supposed to in order to do philosophy–but fail to be doing philosophy thereby.Report

DEK
DEK
1 year ago

“There is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise,” followed quickly by a list of 19 philosophical knowledge claims that, evidently, not everyone knows but ought to. Welp, I appreciate the bravado.

Is the idea that a person who readily accedes to and can plausibly establish all 19 of these is no more an expert at philosophy than one who would be hopeless at such an attempt — for example myself?

But then why say these claims *should* not be controversial? Isn’t that “should” a “should” of competence?Report

Jason "Herr Herr Herr Didn't Plato Already Say That" Brennan
Jason "Herr Herr Herr Didn't Plato Already Say That" Brennan
1 year ago

16 is a necessary but not sufficient condition, but at least I’ve got 16 down! See the recent piece on me in Critical Review!Report