Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jacoby, Russell. "Gone, and Being Forgotten." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION July 25, 2008.

How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy? Instead these masters of Western thought are taught in fields far from their own. Nowadays Freud is found in literature departments, Marx in film studies, and Hegel in German. But have they migrated, or have they been expelled? Perhaps the home fields of Freud, Marx, and Hegel have turned arid. Perhaps those disciplines have come to prize a scientistic ethos that drives away unruly thinkers. Or maybe they simply progress by sloughing off the past. . . . Compared with economics, philosophy prizes the study of its past and generally offers courses on Greek, medieval, and modern thinkers. Frequently, however, those classes close with Kant, in the 18th century, and do not pick up again until the 20th century. The troubling 19th century, featuring Hegel (and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), is omitted or glossed over. General catalogs sometimes list a Hegel course in philosophy, but it is rarely offered. Very few philosophy departments at major universities teach Hegel or Hegelian thought. Philosophy stands at the opposite pole from psychology in at least one respect. In most colleges and universities, it is one of the smaller majors, while psychology is one of the largest. Yet, much like psychology, philosophy has proved unwelcoming for thinkers paddling against the mainstream. Not only did sharp critics like Richard Rorty, frustrated by its narrowness, quit philosophy for comparative literature, but a whole series of professors have departed for other fields, leaving philosophy itself intellectually parched. That is the argument of John McCumber, a scholar of Hegel and Heidegger who himself decamped from philosophy to German. His book Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era (Northwestern University Press, 2001) savages the contemporary American philosophical profession and its flight from history. He notes, for instance, that 10 years after the 1987 "breakthrough anthology" Feminism as Critique, not one of its contributors, from Seyla Benhabib to Iris Marion Young, still taught in a philosophy department. The pressures that force — or tempt — big names such as Rorty and Martha Nussbaum to quit philosophy, McCumber observes, exert equal force on those outside the public eye. He charges, for instance, that senior editors dispense with peer review and run the major philosophy journals like private fiefdoms, and that a few established professors select papers for the discipline's annual conferences. The authoritarianism and cronyism drive out mavericks. . . . Read the rest here: http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=cjtGhcnt3vYPDhDdjtvfySgdzkqpzShC.

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