“There are two kinds of philosophers: swallows and moles.”
Swallows love to soar and to entertain philosophical hypotheses at best loosely connected with empirical knowledge. Moles, on the contrary, rummage through mundane facts about our world and aim at better understanding it.
Which philosophers are swallows and which are moles?
Note that the swallow-mole distinction is not to be confused with the fox-hedgehog distinction (from Archilochus, usually via Isaiah Berlin). The fox knows many things, while the hedgehog knows one big thing.
A further question, of course, is what other animal pairs would make for helpful, or, if not helpful, at least amusing, typologies of philosophers?
Here are some possibilities:
- Ants and Anteaters.
Ants do their specific little jobs as part of creating and maintaining the collective body of knowledge. Anteaters paw through the anthill, slurping up what they need, leaving destruction and confusion in their wake.
- Dogs and Cats.
Dogs are happy to approach you or play with any idea you throw at them, just for fun. Cats may interact with you but usually only if you’re doing something for them.
- Snakes and Glass Lizards.
Snakes are always doing something potentially important: if a snake is nearby, you better pay attention. Glass Lizards are a type of legless lizard that is not a snake (despite that you might have thought that the definition of a snake was “legless lizard”) and are constantly making distinctions that do not make a difference.
Discussion and suggestions welcome (but please play nice).