As a follow-up to this blog’s earlier posts critiquing the lack of methodological self-awareness in mainstream academic philosophy (that is, analytic philosophy and its descendants), I wanted to quote another skeptical remark from Marcus Arvan at The Philosophers’ Cocoon. The remark appears in Arvan’s post on The Sociology of Philosophy:
Could it be, then, that this is how philosophy sometimes/often progresses: by largely arbitrary snowball-effects in which (A) a few thought-experiments/intuitions by a few famous people, (B) attract a few followers, which then (C) attract more followers, which then (D) marginalize people who do not share the dominant intuitions, thereby (E) leading the dominant class to conceive themselves as making progress on the basis of good arguments when, in reality, (F) the correct explanation of that “progress” is the aforementioned snowball effect (i.e. a self-reinforcing system of people with the “right intuitions” dominating/marginalizing those with “the wrong intuitions”)?
Again, it’s always refreshing to hear internal criticism of academic philosophy. There’s far less of it than there should be, especially in light of the profession’s self-conception as the great refuge of critical reasoning. But as in my last post
mentioning Arvan, the question remains: What do other
philosophers think of these kinds of remarks? How do they respond to the many obvious and damning criticisms that can be made of their discipline, which views itself (groundlessly) as the most self-critical and reason-based discipline of all?
For example, Brian Leiter links
approvingly to Arvan’s post, writing: “Yes, we need more [sociology of philosophy]
, though the results are unlikely to increase confidence in many current philosophical fashions.” But Leiter, of course, is one of the most fervent and powerful defenders of the institutional and intellectual status quo in Anglophone academic philosophy today, including any fashions that he might find to be a waste of time — as his critics suggested (for example, here
) in the recent controversy that led to his promising to step down as editor of the Philosophical Gourmet Report.
If the non-reason-based phenomenon that Arvan speculatively describes and others like it are in fact pervasive in academic philosophy today, as the evidence discussed in previous posts
suggests they are, shouldn’t the institutional status quo be dismantled rather than defended and further insulated from critique?