The Problems with Philosophers: A Reply to Weinberg (guest post)


Last week, I posted about an exchange between historians Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder (both of Carleton College), and philosopher Michael Veber (East Carolina), using Veber’s contribution to highlight some things philosophers sometimes do that might contribute to a negative impression about them.

In the following guest post*, Professor Veber returns the favor.

[Boxers Exhibit Series (1920s)]

The Problems with Philosophers: A Reply to Weinberg
by Michael Veber

Justin Weinberg says my little Chronicle article contributes to the negative image of academic philosophers. I had the same reaction to his blog post. I offer the following common traits of the academic philosopher as an alternative explanation for the alleged phenomenon in question.

  1. Image Obsession. “But why don’t more people like me?” Our anxiety over the question provides a big part of the answer. If we weren’t so desperate for other people’s approval, maybe they’d start respecting us. Also, calling people on their bullshit is essential to philosophy. It’s one of the things philosophy does that has real social value. Do it right and some will hate you for it. So what?
  2. Backhanded Epistemic Pseudo-Charity. Academic philosophers often ascribe a simple confusion to someone and then pretend this is an act of empathetic kindness and understanding. Nobody likes that. Justin hypothesizes that I was thrown by the title of Khalid and Snyder’s Chronicle essay and offers this as an excuse on my behalf for what I said. But the same essay, with all the same arguments, was presented under a different title at the FIRE Faculty Network Conference last October and I was an assigned commentator. I disagreed just as much and for exactly the same reasons back then as now. And there was nothing in my Chronicle article that I didn’t tell them in person months ago—including the stuff about what makes for a good philosophy paper and how the idea that historians change the past by writing about it is insane.
  3. Epistemic Doormatting. Rather than stand up and defend what’s rightfully theirs, academic philosophers constantly let amateurs walk all over their discipline right out in public. Khalid and Snyder’s piece used history as the main example. But it wasn’t really about history. It was about metaphysics and epistemology and, according to me anyway, it showed a fundamental misunderstanding of very elementary ideas and distinctions. Plenty of people on campus think philosophy is not worth keeping around. If we continue to let the barbarians ride in and do it for us—and do it so very badly—who can blame them?
  4. Neologistical Misfiring. When you use a fancy word, people think that’s pretentious especially if it’s one you just made up. But sometimes it’s gotta be done. If you’re gonna do it, however, do it right. Justin says I’m “philososplaining”. He defines that as the practice of philosophers explaining things they’re not expert in to others who are. But again, my beef with Khalid and Snyder was over the fundamental nature of knowledge, truth, and inquiry. Those are philosophical not historical matters. Justin also accuses me of “canon calling” which is his term for referring to the work of some great philosopher as proxy for an argument. But I didn’t quote Mill to prove he was right. I brought it up to challenge Khalid and Snyder to come up with some other non-truthy defense of free speech. And they gave that a shot in their rejoinder. Good for them. Isn’t it nice how criticism advances a discussion?
  5. Irony Escapism. Accusing me of canon calling in this dustup is rich. Khalid and Snyder quote John Dewey (out of context and without really understanding him), Susan Haack (who can certainly speak for herself but, if you just read the title and abstract of the thing they quote from, you’ll see she opposes their position) and some historians (who, assuming they too are not being misunderstood, are just as wrong about truth, knowledge, and inquiry as Khalid and Snyder).
  6. Misplaced Piety. I reacted to Khalid and Snyder’s essay, not by making excuses for them, but by saying the things I would’ve said to any colleague in philosophy if that colleague had said the kinds of things Khalid and Snyder said. I didn’t let up or baby them because I know those two can handle it. That’s not condescension. That’s respect. I also had some fun with it. Nothing wrong with that either.
  7. Whatyoushouldhavesaidaboutitism. Occasionally, when someone outside academic philosophy floats a philosophical theory, a benevolent insider will grab the wheel and do the other person’s thinking for them. You can make the case that teaching and research in know-how-based areas is not truth-directed (and good luck with that) or that scientific theories are not meant to be true propositions but useful instruments or that numbers do not exist or that universities must recognize a difference between academic freedom and artistic freedom and truthiness is appropriate only to the former. And of course, it’s terrific if academic philosophers do that on their own or as a friendly amendment to something someone else said. But none of those were Khalid and Snyder’s central argument or what I was objecting to.

Discussion welcome.

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Gordon Barnes
6 months ago

Academics in other disciplines trespass into philosophy constantly. Every member of the Anthropology Department knows that moral relativism is true, and they tell all their students that it’s true, without ever reading single discussion of the issue by someone trained in philosophy. Then a philosopher comes along and calls them on it, and they get defensive and angry. That is precisely because they have been “called on their bullshit”. And the same thing happens in several other disciplines. English is rife with it. They all make philosophical claims about meaning and truth all the time, with only the shallowest reading in a few continental philosophers of language. There, too, when a philosopher calls them on it, they get angry. But the problem is not on the side of philosophy. The problem starts when people make claims that are outside their area of expertise, but make those claims AS IF they fall within their area of expertise. (So the problem is a problem even if one thinks there is no philosophical expertise. If that is the case, then people outside philosophy should also stop pretending that there is expertise in the area, AND that they have it.)Report

James Wilson
Reply to  Gordon Barnes
6 months ago

One of the difficulties with this kind of critique is determining where the boundaries between different disciplinary competences lie, and how to accommodate the many cases where a particular concept, or argument, or assumption is claimed by more than one discipline to fall within its area of competence. 

Of course, academics who aren’t philosophers will sometimes or even often make what seem to philosophers like basic mistakes. However, philosophers will also sometimes make assumptions and advance arguments that seem obviously flawed and naive to those in other disciplines.

It’s of course possible to claim that when any other discipline trespasses onto territory that philosophy wants to claim as its own, the relevant argumentative standards should be philosophical ones. But the anthropologist could also dig their heels in if they wanted to, and insist that it’s anthropological standards that should take precedence. In those topic areas where the opposing discipline also takes itself to be within its disciplinary competence, it seems question-begging (and unlikely to lead to much learning) to assert that the other discipline is simply wrong when it fails to conform to the dominant epistemic and methodological standards of one’s own discipline. 

A more fruitful way of making progress would be via an interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) dialogue, with the aim of better understanding how and why ideas of knowing and of academic rigour are differently constructed by different disciplines. Luckily, there is no shortage of material both within anthropology and philosophy that pursues such dialogues – for example Clifford Geertz’s work, which frequently draws on Ryle and Wittgenstein in attempting to articulate why anthropological knowledge must be local and involve thick description, and which in turn inspired Bernard Williams’s original writings on thick concepts.Report

Gordon Barnes
Reply to  James Wilson
6 months ago

But if you have not studied a large body of relevant research in ethics, then you are not in a good epistemic position to make pronouncements on it. The problem with non-philosophers doing philosophy is that they are unaware of a vast body of research and arguments on the issue. That’s why I don’t teach cultural ethnography or organic chemistry.Report

Karl Martin Adam
Karl Martin Adam
Reply to  Gordon Barnes
6 months ago

So I have a BA in anthropology, and I’ve done some graduate work in anthropology, and I can tell you that’s simply false. U.S trained anthropologists almost all endorse something called “cultural relativism,” but much as in the case of political philosophers almost all endorsing something called “justice” without agreeing about what that is, anthropologists disagree about what “cultural relativism” is (some think it’s what philosophers call “moral relativism,” others think it’s a methodological point that you should try to understand behavior in cultural context, etc.). And good intro anthropology books tteach this controversy while books that are less good on this pick a side without acknowledging that it’s controversial (FWIW my intro book and professor took the “cultural relativism means understand things in cultural context before judging them” side without acknowledging that others disagreed). There is also a large anthropological literature on this, that connects only weakly with the philosophical literature on metaethics (of course the philosophical literature also connects very weakly with the anthropological literature despite discussing issues worked out in much greater depth there like the argument from disagreement etc.). It seems to me that this sort of uninformed general attack on an entire discipline is exactly what gives us professional philosophers a bad name.Report

Gordon Barnes
Reply to  Karl Martin Adam
6 months ago

Anthropologists now qualify their relativism, since they discovered that it is incompatible with universal human rights, and they believe in those. But they continue to trespass into philosophy with these qualified statements. For example, one influential anthropologist says “Morality is not just anything, but it’s more than one thing.” And most anthropologists continue to make statements like that. (I know that because it’s in the textbooks that my students have to read.). This is still crossing over into another discipline, without knowing a large body of relevant research, and no one, in any discipline, is being responsible when they do that.Report

Jonathan
Reply to  Gordon Barnes
6 months ago

You’ve moved from “all anthropologists think moral relativism is true” to “most anthropologists say things like this rather nebulous thing that might or might not be a claim about moral relativism.” Your evidence for the “most” is that it’s in one textbook. (I’m not sure what the “it” there refers to: the statement you quoted or the claim that most anthropologists say such things or something else.) Seems to me that you don’t actually have good evidence for either of your claims.Report

Nicola DiSvevia
Nicola DiSvevia
Reply to  Gordon Barnes
6 months ago

Boundaries between disciplines are not always clearly defined, and I see nothing particularly wrong with people overstepping them. This is particularly true with respect to philosophy, since all disciplines are in need of philosophical foundations. The question is not whether people from other disciplines philosophise, but whether they do so competently. If the answer is No (or indeed Yes!), then professional philosophers have the right, and I would say sometimes even the duty, to get involved. Any such dialogue should always be welcomed, rather than be criticised on grounds other than that of the search for truth.Report

Jack
6 months ago

There’s war going on and this is what you guys are talking about lol. That’s why no one likes usReport

Richard Kim
Richard Kim
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
6 months ago

Also, under that line of thought, we should never discuss philosophy since there’s never been a time when there wasn’t war, famine, and all kinds of atrocities in some corner of the world.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Jack
6 months ago

The owl hunts at night.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Jack
6 months ago

There’s a war going on, childhood slavery, closed borders, and a global pandemic, and you took the time out of your day (which I assume is usually spent saving lives) to complain about what philosophers talk about on a blog!Report

Thomas Nadelhoffer
Reply to  Jason Brennan
6 months ago

I find it even more outrageous that philosophers are talking about philosophers who are talking about philosophers on a blog. Where does this madness end?! 🙂Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Thomas Nadelhoffer
6 months ago

Not here,clearly.Report

eltorosolo
eltorosolo
Reply to  Jack
6 months ago

One of my students missed her presentation today because she literally had to go back to her family in Ukraine. She’s Zooming into my office hour tomorrow, in order to give the presentation, because people still do things, including philosophy, when wars are going on.Report

Bob Kirkman
6 months ago

Would it be out of place to point out that meta- and meta-meta-level disagreements about the telos of higher education and the purpose of academic freedom should themselves be protected under principles of academic freedom?

It would seem that reasonable people of good will may disagree as to whether serious, critical inquiry must aim at some singular, immutable truth. Long may their arguments continue, without hindrance!Report

Ian
Ian
6 months ago

Eh.

I don’t find these plausible reasons why people would dislike philosophers. I find these plausible reasons why philosophers should continue their actions despite being disliked.

Maybe there’s some sort of balance that needs to be achieved here.Report

Patrick Lin
6 months ago

Again, I’d think that any discipline/profession can suffer a similar debate on why people might not like them. But maybe what’s unique to philosophy is that criticism is such a central part of it (or much of it).

And, as Socrates discovered, no one likes a critic. Particularly, when we question (i.e., threaten) their basic assumptions about the world and fundamental values, they may hate you for it.

This isn’t really a ding on philosophy but an apparent fact about people and their cognitive biases: we generally don’t like to be wrong or look foolish. I wouldn’t be so dramatic to say that philosophers are gadflies that keep lazy horses honest, but what we do nonetheless seems valuable, even if not appreciated by many.

A couple quotes about critics to meditate on:

“Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place, then come down and shoot the survivors.” Ernest Hemingway

“The critic’s symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else’s dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.” Mark Twain

But also:

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” Winston Churchill

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Tarik Gim
Tarik Gim
Reply to  Patrick Lin
6 months ago

You are certainly right that criticism is an important feature of philosophy that we should continue to value. This is why we need to ensure that we try to maintain freedom of speech and create an environment that permits people (without fear of retaliation) to make arguments or reasoned assertions that from some angles will appear to be “ist” or “phobic” in some way. Not because those views cannot be wrong or even morally repulsive, but because philosophers need to still engage with even those ideas that we find abhorrent, by arguing against them, i.e. by doing more philosophy.Report

Molly Gardner
6 months ago

I’ve been following all three of the posts in this “Why do people have negative attitudes toward philosophers?” series, and I have yet to see anyone produce any solid evidence for the claim that people have negative attitudes toward philosophers. (I don’t take Twitter discourse to count as “solid evidence” because of the feedback loop I described in my comment on the first post.)Report

Molly Gardner
Reply to  Patrick Lin
6 months ago

Thank you! That is an interesting survey about attitudes towards philosophy. But I am still hesitant to draw any inferences from this survey about attitudes towards philosophers.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Patrick Lin
6 months ago

Perhaps your link went to a different survey from the one you are thinking about. That survey seemed to have evidence for the claim that people have positive attitudes towards philosophy, but not quite as positive as towards other Humanities. “Not as positive an attitude as that towards X” doesn’t entail, or even weakly imply “negative attitude”, unless we already know that the attitude towards X is negative, which we don’t know.Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

From Michele Lamont’s book, How Professors Think:

“Philosophy is a problem discipline, and it’s defined as such by program officers. Philosophers do not believe that non-philosophers are qualified to evaluate their work. Perhaps that comes out of the dominance of analytic philosophy, with its stress on logic and rigor. Philosophers think their discipline is more demanding than other fields. Even its practitioners define the discipline as contentious. They don’t see that as a problem; argument and dispute are the discipline’s defining characteristics.

All that conflict makes it difficult to get consensus on the value of a philosophy proposal or to convince people from other disciplines of its merits. The panels I studied are multidisciplinary. Nonphilosophers are often frustrated with the philosophers. They often discounted what philosophers had to say as misplaced intellectual superiority.”

So- at least on interdisciplinary granting agencies, there is some evidence that philosophers are a “problem case” – people find them to have “misplaced intellectual superiority”.

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Molly Gardner
Reply to  Chris
6 months ago

This passage suggests that the explanation for the phenomenon is “misplaced intellectual authority,” but I am not clear on what the phenomenon is. Is it that philosophers are underrepresented among writers of interdisciplinary grant proposals? Or is it that people are willing to collaborate on grant proposals with philosophers, but their teams are less likely to get the grants? Compared to whom? Other academics? Other scholars of the humanities? I don’t have a copy of this book, so I am afraid I can’t just look it up.Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

Sorry I should have used “multidisciplinary” as Lamont does – she examines a bunch of different granting agencies in sciences and humanities – I believe the philosophy case was from the national endowment for humanities in the US.
You can get a pdf of the book through research gate if you’re genuinely curious. Lamont is considered a leader in the sociology of academia- so this is better evidence, it would seem, than “twitter”. I’m not on twitter so I don’t know what you’re comparing it to. But I would hope that philosophers would take seriously empirical work from other disciplines. I would also hope philosophers would care if their reputation and behaviour is keeping them from getting grants – whether justified or notReport

Tom Hurka
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

The Lamont book is very worth reading, but just to elaborate. She’s talking about grant committees with members from many disciplines but judging proposals from within disciplines, e.g. history proposals from historians, philosophy proposals from philosophers, etc. (These tend to be high-prestige committees, e.g. the ACLS.) But all members of the committee participate in judging all the proposals, and that’s where the difficulties she reports about philosophy proposals arise. First, the non-philosophers often can’t understand the philosophy proposals, which they don’t take to count in the proposals’ favour; nor do they see why the work proposed is important. Moreover, they tend to like the philosophy proposals the philosopher on the committee doesn’t like and not to like the ones the philosopher does like. That’s where the philosopher can start to suggest that only philosophers can judge philosophy proposals, which isn’t a winning strategy interpersonally. For what it’s worth, the one time I was on this type of committee (it was for postdocs), the non-philosophers were indeed bad judges of the quality of philosophical proposals, but then I had no serious idea of what was a good, vs. a not so good, history proposal either.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Chris
6 months ago

From a parallel universe:

“Engineering is a problem discipline, and it’s defined as such by program officers. Engineers do not believe that non-engineers are qualified to assess their work. Perhaps that comes out of the dominance of schools of engineering that require skill in mathematics and physics, with their stress on rigorous and precise calculations. Engineers think that they can more reliably build bridges than members of any other discipline. They don’t see that contentiousness as a problem: a focus on accuracy rather than aesthetics or intellectual egalitarianism are the discipline’s defining characteristics.

“All that conflict makes it difficult to get consensus on the value of an engineer’s proposal or to convince people from other disciplines of its merits. The fact that engineers see themselves as better at building bridges than literary critics or sociologists is seen by the latter as needlessly arrogant.

“So there is some evidence that engineering is a problem case — people find them to have ‘misplaced intellectual superiority’. And, since the majority can be trusted on these matters…”Report

Bradford Cokelet
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

Does the existence of the God it Not Dead movie and the fact that it is now a series (!!) provides some empirical evidence that people have negative attitudes towards philosophers? I guess the posts on DN are more focused on the negative attitudes of our fellow academics, but the movie at least suggests that there is live cultural meme that philosophy professors are dogmatically and disrespectfully anti-christian. I bet there are other cultural representations in the same vein but am not sure. Maybe people who are more aware of christian culture can help clarify this? If this is a common or familiar stereotype, it seems like some evidence of widespread negative attiudes.

On the up side the reviews of the first movie on Rotten Tomatoes are kinda fun.
Despite the campus setting, little about the story is intelligently designed.”
“Any just God would likely recoil from the ham-fisted and spurious defense put forth in this film.”Report

Cognitive Schmientist
Cognitive Schmientist
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

I presume you mean nobody provided solid evidence that people in other disciplines typically have negative attitudes towards philosophy / philosophers.

I personally testified that I have negative attitudes towards philosophy (and I indicated what those attitudes might be) so I should serve as an existence proof that at least some people do!

I think there are two possible framings of Weinberg’s question which might be more to your liking:

1. Why Do (Some) People Have Negative Attitudes Towards Philosophers (Or Their Practice)?

2. Do People Typically Have Negative Attitudes Towards Philosophers (Or Their Practice), And If So Why?

Personally, I think the first question is worth asking, even if people like me are in a minority.

With regard to the second question, you’re of course right to ask for systematic evidence regarding what attitudes people have.

On the other hand, when systematic evidence is unavailable, non-systematic evidence like gut impressions and anecdotes are legitimate contributors to provisional judgement calls. I think people have been engaging at that level.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Cognitive Schmientist
6 months ago

The first question is clearly not worth asking. There is no discipline without its detractors. It would be like asking why some people dislike baseball, or country music, or basketball, or classical music, or….. The only question worth asking would be something like “Does Philosophy have a significantly larger proportion of detractors than relevantly similar disciplines, and if so why?”Report

Cognitive Schmientist
Cognitive Schmientist
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
6 months ago

To clarify in advance: this isn’t meant as a personal attack or confrontation.

I have to be honest here. I think you are wrong, and I’m capable of engaging at the content level with your argument, which I think is fallacious (briefly: one should listen to criticism even if one is criticised less often than others are).

But I am not really inclined to put the effort into doing so, and defending my position robustly, because of a meta-level issue: you asserted that my question (which I indicated I thought was worth asking) was “clearly not worth asking”.

This is a philosophy forum, of course. I accept that the norms of philosophical discourse are different from those of other disciplines. But I am a stranger here – as I’ve indicated, I’m not a philosopher. It’s tiring (and sometimes uncomfortable) for me to engage with an alien culture.

So psychologically, I can’t help but find the statement that my question is “clearly not worth asking” kind of offensive. I suspect that academics from a variety of other disciplinary backgrounds (and, indeed, some philosophers) would feel the same way. It puts me off engaging further.

Again, I’m trying not to frame this as a judgement on your wording. I just think that, in the context of the current topic, it’s worth me describing the impact which that wording has on me.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Cognitive Schmientist
6 months ago

Interesting argumentative technique you have there. You seem to want to claim you’re not doing something that you very clearly are doing. Yes, I asserted that your first question was clearly not worth asking, and I explained why. You say you found that offensive. Yes, this is a forum for philosophers, so you’re going to find at least some philosophers doing what philosophers often do, which is make claims and give arguments for them. I wouldn’t go on a forum for evolutionary biologists and say that I found their insistence on applying the methods of their discipline, rather than just relying on biblical interpretation, “tiring” or “offensive”. You also said that you found my argument “fallacious”, and by way of demonstration cited a platitude that I didn’t disagree with. I’m not sure what fallacy you think my argument committed. I’d be interested to learn. And if we’re in the business of sharing how others’ posts make us feel, I’ll share that I found your claim that my argument was fallacious both tiring and offensive, and your implied reconstruction of it (implied by the claim that the desirability of listening to criticism somehow contradicts what I said) frankly insulting. I wouldn’t normally bother to share these rather trivial reactions. I’ve been offended, insulted, and wearied to much greater extents by others, many of whom I still count as friends. If your point is that some people object to some philosophers’ style of discourse, on the grounds that they find it “offensive”, I think you have amply made my point for me. I find the style of discourse of many of my non-philosophy colleagues not to my liking either, and sometimes even offensive. Rarely, though sometimes, do I find it offensive enough to confront them about it. They do their thing, I do mine. What I think we should all find somewhat, and maybe a great deal, offensive is the idea that the same norms of discourse should apply to all disciplines.Report

Veber
Veber
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

I agree this empirical question is worth investigating. Part of what I’m saying above is that if there isn’t a negative image, we need to try harder. Philosophy is supposed to piss people off. That’s one of the things that makes it cool. I was delighted to hear Justin say my Chronicle article exemplifies everything he dislikes about academic philosophers.   Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Veber
6 months ago

As long as you don’t mind if you don’t get the grant from the NEH… (see above)Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Chris
6 months ago

Well such behavior also makes sure that other philosophers don’t get those grants either. And worse it all too often makes it the case that philosophy has no allies anywhere but plenty of enemies when the budget’s short and the knives are out. That’s why I find this sort of thing so annoying. The whole profession pays for this sort of arrogance and general unpleasantness.Report

Cognitive Schmientist
Cognitive Schmientist
Reply to  Veber
6 months ago

The fact that one cannot seek truth without causing offence does not imply that causing offence is itself a means to the pursuit of truth.

In my view, people in other disciplines find perfectly good ways to critique each others’ work intensely and robustly, while still observing interpersonal norms that are designed to minimise unnecessarily pissing each other off. Moreover, I personally don’t think scientific inquiry would be nearly as effective without these norms.

You’ve indicated that you think it’s cool to piss people off. Be completely honest: is it conceivable that you are using the notional pursuit of truth as an excuse to justify needling other people for your own enjoyment?Report

Molly Gardner
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

Ok, here is the evidence that has so far been produced in the replies to me:

(1) There was a survey that found that while 77% of Americans have a favorable impression of the term philosophy, less than a third have a very favorable view (29%).

(2) Some nonphilosophers told Michele Lamont that they were frustrated with philosophers.

(3) The God Is Not Dead series exists.

(4) An anonymous person testified that he or she, personally, has a negative attitude towards philosophy.

I guess we can now draw the conclusion that people have negative attitudes towards philosophy and philosophers?Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Molly Gardner
6 months ago

I guess I wasn’t expect you to deny that evidence from a leading sociologist wasn’t evidence that other academics have negative attitudes towards philosophers. Especially if you haven’t read the book. Maybe you’re not denying this but denying this is evidence that “overall, people have negative attitudes…” ? Part of the problem here is that your initial claim was unclear. I provided evidence (via Lamont’s work) that philosophy was singled out as the only “problem discipline” in her analysis of how disciplines behaved and were perceived by those involved in national granting agencies.
But of course when you say “I guess we can now draw the conclusion that people have negative attitudes..” of course the answer is “yes” if “people” means “some people”. But I’ve done more than that. I’ve provided you with evidence that philosophy was singled out as a problem discipline relative to other disciplines. I would think that would be of interest.

of course, this doesn’t establish that the average person views philosophy negatively or more negatively than other disciplines. But I’m puzzled why you don’t think the sociological evidence I refer to here is relevant to the broad question (I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic in your conclusion above).Report

Molly Gardner
Reply to  Chris
6 months ago

I was assuming that Lamont’s main research question was “How do professors think?” and that she employed qualitative research methods (mainly interviews?) to answer that question. I think those methods are an excellent way of answering that question.

But I am skeptical about the value of repurposing Lamont’s methods to answer our question, namely, “Do people have negative attitudes towards philosophy and philosophers?” It seems to me that a better way of answering our question would be to conduct a survey of our target population. That said, I’m not sure what our target population is–Is it just people who administer grants? Is it all academics? Is it all English speaking adults?–but we would want our survey of that population to draw upon a representative and sufficiently large sample.Report

Last edited 6 months ago by Molly Gardner
Mark Hooper
6 months ago

Unless the Philosophy is allied to the Pontiff is there any real collegiality among so called lovers of Sophie. Isn’t it all abuse disguised as true charity. I qualify the remark by a bit more cynicism about even Catholic Philosophy. If people can’t see it it’s usually because the won’t see it. As is their wont. Shakespeare has a lot to answer for.Report

Jason Swartwood
6 months ago

The lesson I take from this is that interdisciplinary discussions are important but hard.Report

Greg Littmann
6 months ago

It would be difficult to stop academics in other disciplines from trespassing into philosophy because we in philosophy don’t provide answers to philosophical questions. We provide food for thought. All academics can do with the ideas we provide is to use them to think through philosophical issues for themselves.Report

Fool
6 months ago

What I think we can conclude from the discussion on this post and the prior one is that (though no one has mentioned his name) [it is true that] Peircean Fallibilism is obviously correct and all American philosophy since Peirce has been a mistake.Report

Jamie Flagstaff
6 months ago

So Veber says a lot, but how does he know he isn’t a brain-in-a-vat?Report