In the various discussions about the disadvantages of academic philosophy that I have linked to, I think that the shared premise is that a certain type of philosophy requires such specialised knowledge that only a select few will be motivated enough to spend the time and the effort necessary to get enough expertise in that discipline to be able to contribute to solving its highly specific problems. The whole point of these discussions is to relativise a certain academic vision of philosophy as narrowly specialised knowledge accessible for the very few, and to problematise the idea that the general public is composed of ignoramuses and/or dummies. If one looks at the various articles on my blog one can see that I am trying to break down tribal barriers between different ways of doing philosophy, but in no way do I seek “dumb it down”. I am a pluralist in the sense that I refuse to get caught up in one narrow little group of cronies and their single-minded way of seeing things. I am far closer to the homeless bum that Feyerabend said he could have become than to the condescending PhD, a kinship which sometimes gets me into trouble, but mainly gets me ignored by a lot of PhDs. However we must not generalise even there, as some PhDs are very nice and interesting people, and some marginals don’t say things we can particularly relate. One does not need to be specialised to read Montaigne or Nietzsche with profit and pleasure. Nor Feyerabend, nor Plato for that matter.

Note: In the world of professional philosophers, Quine is a compromise-formation. He allowed them to absorb the potentialy threatening notion of radical revisability at every level extending from the highest theory to the most basic and evident sensation, by detaching it from the associated notion of incommensurability. The result was the paradox of an anti-foundationalist conservatism. Instead of deconstructing logical positivism to get us closer to scientific history and practice and to everyday life, his own “destruction” of positivism led us further away from real science while maintaining the scientism.

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  1. There is a broader problem for the untrained would-be philosopher who might be well-placed to tackle certain philosophical quandaries as a result of expertise in other fields: academic philosophy may (understandably) require acknowledging previous work and workers in the field. For the unlettered philosopher, the fear induced is a double one. First, that a given line of thought or inquiry may not actually be original. Second, that even if an argument is original, its merits may be ignored because it isn’t acknowledging any predecessors.

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  2. terenceblake says:

    Philosophers too are untrained in fields they draw upon or try to influence. So your considerations suggest that both philosophers and would-be philosophers need education in dialogue. But even inside philosophy collective research is the exception rather than the rule. Changing practices may well produce a crisis of acknowledgement, but contribution is a learn as you do type of experience.


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