What is wrong with philosophy?

October 4, 2015

Philosophy is both too important and too common to be left to philosophers. For who does not philosophize?

And who does not philosophize badly? What I will say seems particularly pointed at academic philosophers, but in some senses it applies to all of us, academics and not. For we all share the flaws of academic philosophers.

Philosophers (Academic philosophers, or "philosophers") share a number of flaws. Some of them are:

  • They lose sight of the main objective. To say something meaningful about the "world(s)" in which we live.
  • They get sidetracked on minutia : say as editors, or academicians like to do. Huddle down with a stack of papers and research something which counts as research in the academic field of philosophy, but which is not philosophy. Philosophical journals are mostly arguments over issues with little philosophical concerns.
  • They do not address the central scandal of philosophy. After thousands of years we can not agree on a common understanding of the universe. We can expound the great philosophers. They all make something we can call "sense." We think we "understand" them. But we cannot say who is right and who is wrong, or explain why we cannot say who is right and who is wrong,
  • They surround themselves with a thicket of jargon. Any moderately intelligent person can make up (or adopt) a world view. The real skill would be to adjudicate between these diverse points of view.
  • They do not hesitate to use words . . . enough. Every words is suspect.
  • They have nothing to say. They sit on the shoulders of giants, gawking cluelessly at the spectacle.
  • They write too much. Genuine philosophical ideas are hard to come by, and harder not to make a mess of.
  • They hide their ideas.
  • They fail to separate their professional requirements from the requirements of depth.
  • They cannot admit and sometimes not recognize their (and our) ignorance. "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." — Socrates) It's a good place to start.

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