Please refer to:
- Frodeman, Robert and Adam Briggle. “When Philosophy Lost Its Way.” New York Times: January 11, 2016. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/when-philosophy-lost-its-way/.
- Soames, Scott. “Philosophy’s True Home.” New York Times: March 7, 2016. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/philosophys-true-home/.
- Maring, Luke. “Abandoning the Academy is the Single Worst Thing Philosophers Could Do: A Reply to Frodeman and Briggle.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 3 (2016): 54-58.
- “Comments on Luke Maring’s Post Regarding ‘When Philosophy Lost Its Way'”, Bob Frodeman and Adam Briggle.
- “Philosophy, the Academy, and the Public: A Reply to Frodeman and Briggle”, Luke Maring
This debate [please refer above to posts and comments by Maring and Frodeman and Briggle] is starting to remind us of what’s wrong about philosophy. We bet that with each iteration fewer are reading. Why? The argument grows inbred and solipsistic, consisting of refutations and claims of contradiction and faulty logic—rather than the kind of forward-looking generosity of spirit that draws people in. This is in part the unfortunate ignoring of rhetoric by contemporary philosophy.
In an attempt to break out of tit-for-tat, let us make a few points more in the spirit of a former colleague, who always encouraged us to look for the doorway rather than the wall.
Our goal is to promulgate the idea that philosophers can do many different things, some of which we do not do now—or at least, not to anywhere the degree we could and should. This, we claim, will be good for society and for the philosophic community. Far from disdaining normal or ‘disciplinary’ philosophy we see ourselves as having their (our) back. This is part of what we meant by reference to Bruno Latour’s ‘purified’—that philosophers should be engaged in a motley collection of different tasks for different audiences, rather than the current two main tasks, writing for other philosophers and teaching.
We did not mean to imply that we should stop doing what we are currently doing. And so to agree with Maring, there should be disciplinary specialists focused on distinctively philosophical problems in ethics, epistemology, aesthetics and the like, and whose primary task is to converse with other specialists with care. A great deal of wonderful work comes from that. And we agree that this work sometimes makes it out to other disciplines, or out into the world over time, in ways that can be immensely useful. By calling it the trickle down model we do not mean to deny these facts, but only to suggest that more active approaches are also possible.
What could those other ways be? We could imagine philosophers whose job is Hegelian in nature, in that their task is to synthesize academic knowledge production in order to provide a sense of the whole. We are all inundated in details; it would be nice if someone was tasked to remind us of basic points and how things tie together. And we think there could (and should) also be translators, whose peculiar task is to bring the insights of the academy to the world at large. We believe philosophy programs would be richer if such tasks were taken seriously, in the sense that people were hired to do them—something that is actually happening at NAU, in the person of Andrea Houchard and her program in public philosophy. And yes, we think there should also be a category of philosophers who operate as field philosophers, i.e., folks who do the kind of work that is the focus of many of our efforts. For instance, Frodeman is currently working with the European Commission, four trips to Brussels this year, trying to leaven their accountability scheme with a bit more self-awareness about fundamental assumptions.
Shifting to the institutional level, we would like to see these (and other) tasks taking place in three institutional settings.
❧ First, within the disciplinary model of knowledge production where academic peers (primarily philosophers but sometimes other disciplines) are the main audience;
❧ Second, within a field philosophy model where philosophers remain housed in the university, but non-academics are their main audience/collaborators;
❧ Third, within a philosopher bureaucrat model, where people with philosophy degrees “go native” by taking up full-time (or at least long-time) employment in the public or private sector.
The trouble is that things are out of balance. The first model (disciplinarity) is such an orthodox that few even see it as a model at all, instead taking it to be simply what it means to do philosophy. Thus Leiter recently labelled us fakers; for what else could we be if we are not doing disciplinary philosophy? On our account, though, we see this as an unhealthy and dangerous intellectual monoculture in an age of accountability. Other models are struggling to emerge; we seek to help them along by making them more self-aware and prompting them to take institutional forms.