Philosophers Defend Philosophy At The Amazing Meeting 2013

I really enjoyed the video above of Susan Haack, Russell Blackford, Peter Boghossian, Massimo Pigliucci, and DJ Grothe from TAM 2013 talking a lot about the value of philosophy. There were a number of excellent points made.

And I was heartened to hear Boghossian go off on how no one can follow each other’s papers at academic conferences. Personally, I basically wait for the question and answer time at those conferences because that’s when people actually are intelligible. Academic papers are not written to be read aloud and listened to. Oratory is a different art than technical scholarship. I am loathe to read my very technical writing aloud. Even some of my written rhetoric that works well on the page does not have the same effect read aloud. I prefer extemporaneous speaking because that keeps me thinking and creating and as I go along, finding what is natural and fit to the me that is actually presenting. I can “let the spirit move me” rather than try to be passionate within a rigid structure that dictates the order of what I’m saying. Not having a definitive script slows me down (at least a little–I’m still a fast thinker and even faster talker) so that I am going at a rate that other minds, that have to be thinking processing for the first time at least have a hope of keeping up with.

For these reasons, I wish academic conferences were about presentations for understanding, in mostly plain language, with definitions of all the necessary jargon given out on handouts and that after presenting the basic concepts, they quickly became dialectical in character. In fact in my experience, what often happens at the end of academic papers is that the audience just starts having for themselves the very questions the paper was addressing. So, if my whole paper was trying to explain why x solves y, the questions hilariously take the form of, “have you thought of the problem of y?” Well… the whole paper was my attempted solution to y! So now I explain x again like a human being and people get it and have insights into it.

But for all that, I also appreciated Pigliucci’s emphasis on the fact that philosophy’s bad reputation for logic chopping irrelevance in its scholarship is only half the story. Any field of study generates lots of obscure research among subsets of specialists. And that’s a good thing insofar as we want thoroughness. Not all philosophy has to be accessible to all people any more than all biology or chemistry or mathematics does.

Anyway, these are just a couple of the many excellent points made on a range of issues. There were only a couple things anyone said that I would have disagreed pretty strongly with. Overall I recommend the whole video to philosophers and philosophy skeptics alike.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • 9B9K9999

    Its easy to understand science as ‘natural philosophy’, just as it was in its early days. What is the difference? Only the areas of interest. Humanity has thrived on curiosity, about everything. Part of curiosity is like that of the TV soap detective heroes; poking and prodding people, facts, ideas, to see what gives and what holds firm. We like our truths to be as firm, that is solid and reliable, like a well built vehicle or other such physical structure/ device, fit for purpose, a bridge or a vaccine or for that matter even food and drink. Wholesome and life enhancing and enjoyable. And swords should be sharp, fit to penetrate falsehood.

  • http://skepticaljew.blogspot.com/ MKR

    I was arrested by Susan Haack’s remarks from 35:20 to 36:50, in which she says that the growth of specialization in philosophy reflects only the historical development of academic life and not the nature of the discipline itself.

    On the other hand, while I confess that I have yet to read the copy of her Evidence and Inquiry (the first edition) that I have had on my shelf for a while, it looks to me (in my superficial inspection of it) to be occupied with the same artificial minutiae as any other recent work in epistemology.


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