Monday, April 05, 2010

Stanley, Jason. "The Crisis of Philosophy." INSIDE HIGHER ED April 5, 2010.

In the recently announced results of the new American Council of Learned Societies “New Faculty Fellows” program, 53 recent Ph.D.s in the humanities were awarded post-doctoral fellowships. None of the initial list of winners held a Ph.D. in philosophy. This is only the most recent insult to the oldest of disciplines. Most American humanists are unclear about how the debates of philosophers are supposed to fit into the overall project of the humanities. We are ignored at dinner parties, and considered arrogant and perhaps uncouth. To add insult to injury, the name of our profession is liberally bestowed on those teaching in completely different departments. The great figures of American philosophy, lauded the world over, are passed over within American academy, in favor of lesser known lights. For example, in January, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a lengthy article praising two rather unknown philosophy professors, which concluded with the grandiose sentence, “They became philosophers in the grand sense that still draws young people to the subject today, until the phony logic choppers drive them away.” Humans organize themselves into societies, cultures, nations, religions, genders, and races, and employ art and literature to represent their character. According to one view, the humanities should explain the nature of these formations – how the cultural artifacts the groups produce represent their respective identities. In so doing, we seek to advance a more sympathetic understanding of the differing veils humans adopt. The decades have taught us sensitivity to the risks of colonialist methodologies. Therefore, many humanists are members of the communities they seek to understand. The work of the humanities has also become ever more important, as we are brought in closer connection with once-unfamiliar groups. Confrontation with the other has become a necessity of modernity, and humanists have settled into playing a role as our arbiter with the unfamiliar. Philosophy stands apart from this emerging consensus about the purpose of the humanities. Its questions – which concern the nature and scope of concepts like knowledge, representation, free will, rational agency, goodness, justice, laws, evidence and truth – seem antiquated and baroque. Its central debates seem disconnected from the issues of identity that plague and inspire the contemporary world. Its pedantic methodology seems designed to alienate rather than absorb. Whereas humanists have transformed into actors, using their teaching and research as political tools, philosophers have withdrawn ever more to positions as removed spectators, and not of life, but of some abstracted and disconnected realm of Grand Concepts. . . . Read the rest here:

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