Comments on Luke Maring’s Post Regarding “When Philosophy Lost Its Way”, Bob Frodeman and Adam Briggle

SERRC —  March 19, 2016 — 7 Comments

Author Information: Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas, Robert.Frodeman@unt.edu; Adam Briggle, University of North Texas, Adam.Briggle@unt.edu

Concerning Luke Maring’s recent post on our New York Times article, a few comments.

Maring’s basic point is a non sequitur: in no way have we ever stated or implied that philosophy should abandon the academy. Quite the opposite: we are institutional pluralists. Philosophy should have several homes—including the academy. 

Soames’ argument similarly misses the mark. We have not questioned whether philosophy has contributed to other disciplines. Of course it has. Our focus is on its general abandonment of the public square.

❧ Our argument entails an expansion of the space of philosophy—both within and outside the academy. That is, philosophers should be both housed in philosophy departments, and in other departments across campus. And for that matter within the administration as well, since university administrations now regularly deal with questions of eg the privatization of knowledge production.

❧ Maring mis-identifies our point as a ‘content’ argument; it is really a ‘medium’ argument: the medium (the disciplinary model of knowledge production) has become the message—overwhelmingly, philosophic knowledge production today is of interest only to other philosophers.

❧ Concerning this abandonment, it is not sufficient to note all the wonderful insights within applied ethics. Applied ethics has been a failure, as we show in Socrates Tenured. Or more exactly, it has been a success in terms of generating lots of interesting ideas, and (mostly) a failure in terms of getting these ideas out into the world. That is, the failure of applied ethics turns on its ignorance of issues of rhetoric or audience.

❧ The cause of this failure of applied ethics is its tacit assumption of the ‘trickle-down’ model of knowledge dissemination. Sure, there have been cases (e.g. Singer) where its ideas have made it out into the world. But the vast majority of the applied ethics literature only gets read by other philosophers. Or more exactly, not read at all, if we go by citation analyses. This is vastly different from our field philosophy model, which takes an active approach toward embedding ideas within social contexts, and which argues that articles in applied ethics should include implementation plans.

❧. The same point applies to teaching. Of course it is a worthy activity; but it too depends on the trickle down model in order to get philosophic ideas out into the world. This should not be viewed as sufficient.

❧ It is hardly accurate to describe our argument as being in favor of the ‘philosopher-priest’. That certainly wasn’t Socrates’ interest. He asked questions rather than promulgated revealed dogma. Our point is simply a rejection of Soames’ bizarre account of the history of philosophy where “goodness, justice and virtue … was never its [philosophy’s] central aim.”

7 responses to Comments on Luke Maring’s Post Regarding “When Philosophy Lost Its Way”, Bob Frodeman and Adam Briggle

  1. 

    Here you claim:
    “We have not questioned whether philosophy has contributed to other disciplines. Of course it has. Our focus is on its general abandonment of the public square.”

    and

    “Maring mis-identifies our point as a ‘content’ argument; it is really a ‘medium’ argument”

    Compare this to some of the claims you make in the Stone article:
    “Against the inclinations of Socrates, philosophers became experts like other disciplinary specialists.”

    You say that the two cause of philosophy’s “purification” was a response to two events: (1) the breaking away of the natural and social sciences into distinct disciplines and (2) the “the placing of philosophy as one more discipline alongside these sciences within the modern research university.”

    You say that before this separation “conflicts among philosophy, medicine, theology and law consisted of internecine battles rather than clashes across yawning cultural divides.”

    “Philosophers needed to embrace the structure of the modern research university, which consists of various specialties demarcated from one another.”

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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