Fincke discusses the possibility of failure on his blog. He wants to remain a teacher, he said, but even “if that can’t happen, I know I can always teach through writing.” He’ll try for the scholarly journals he never had time to write for before, but, he remains committed primarily to his blog. The discipline would do well not to “sniff” at his and other philosophers’ attempts to make it more accessible to the general public, he added. Naming Nietzsche, Kant and a host of other non-academic but well-known philosophers, Fincke said there’s a long legacy of the discipline’s best work being done outside the academy.
“We are not like other disciplines where one has to go out and do a sophisticated empirical research program and then come back to report on findings,” he said. “This is a dialectical endeavor. I feel like it should be a vigorous daily interaction using modern internet technology wherein philosophers immediately can float their ideas to each other and get immediate professional feedback in an ongoing, informal process in the blogosphere or something akin to it.”
Amy Ferrer, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, said she couldn’t comment specifically on potential market for Fincke’s courses or the organization’s position on philosophical counseling. But, she added via email: “The discipline and the profession benefit from increased public engagement with and exposure to philosophy; if courses like Fincke’s can create more opportunities for that kind of engagement, that’s a good thing.” (Recent job posting and other hiring-related figures for tenure-track philosophy jobs were not immediately available from the association. Ferrer said the philosophy job market has “long been a challenging one,” made worse by the recession.)
There’s a lot more, she covered a lot and talked to some more interesting people who had responses to what I’m doing. To learn more of the ins and outs of how I started up my online classes and attained blogging success, listen to the thorough interview on these subjects I gave to Daniel Mullin at the very good Unemployed Philosopher’s Blog last May.
Just a quick correction of an inaccuracy in what I said in the article that I know a lot of philosophers will pick up on. Of the long list of philosophers I cited who did important work outside the academy, I should not have included Kant. What I was trying to refer to when including Kant was that he was not a professor until he was 45. For a long time he was a private lecturer. I have been told he had to advertise for his own students and functioned very much as the period’s equivalent of an adjunct. So he was not operating under idealized professional academic conditions and that was my point. (Of course, in his case though, his best philosophical work came relatively late in life, as a professor.)
The better examples of philosophers that I gave who didn’t have philosophy positions at all while writing cutting edge things included Nietzsche, Spinoza, Hume, Peirce, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Descartes, and Locke. (And of course this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the pre-university philosophers of note.) I can understand, amidst the list I gave and the general framing that I gave it why it came off like I was saying Kant operated outside the academy when doing his most important work. I tried to clarify what I meant right after Kant’s name came out of my mouth, but as I was throwing a lot of information at the reporter quickly I take responsibility for the inaccuracy.
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