Philosophers and those who purport to be

An interesting piece by Maverick Philosopher, Philosophy as Hobby, as Career, as Vocation, has me thinking about how unself-reflective those who claim the label of “philosopher” can be. Philosophers like to think of their engagements in the most noble, socially-acceptable terms; that is human (or rather, ape). In this, they abuse concepts, such as ‘reason’ and ‘academic rigour’, by using them as endowments which they can lend to their work in order to grant it divine authority.

An honest assessment would be that most philosophers, especially academic ones, engage in ‘philosophical activities’ primarily out of a desire for social status; a primitive motivation. This motivation is evidenced when philosophers come to think that following formal styles and academic standards is more important than the life-impact of their work.

Perhaps no one can escape the motivation of social status in their philosophical pursuits. If that be the case, at least the philosopher should be honest in recognising it. They should attend more of their writings to the pursuit of social status (e.g. as Aristotle did as part of pursuit of the Good Life), rather than pursuing itself by way of pretentious talk on topics not related to it (in the social status game of academic publishing) and having no impact on how we live our lives.

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One Response to “Philosophers and those who purport to be”

  1. j.a. lawrence Says:

    I definitely understand where this comes from, because as a philosophy student, I found myself questioning my motivation for studying the subject. Did having philosophy as a major give me a mystical veil of intellectualism to hide behind? Did I pick up the subject just to become well-read and/or respected?

    What became evident to me after a while was that those questions were moot because at it’s core and perhaps on it’s surface, philosophy IS a subject that is rewarding and gratifying on a personal level. The goal of a philosopher, therefore, should be revealing the many layers that lie under the surface but above the core. Namely, practical applications of philosophical principles.

    It is a sweeping generalization to say that academic philosophers pursue their practice primarily out of a desire for social statues because philosophy, despite its nature, is a very insular field. What I mean is that the only people reading the work of philosophers are more than likely philosophers or aspiring philosophers. In that sense, the writings are not to achieve social status but to further the study of a subject.

    The practice of philosophy can seem to be nothing more than jockeying to be the top philosopher in whatever field but in reality, that is just the way the subject is. Even Descartes and Plato had to stand up to questioning from their contemporaries. In that sense it’s more call and response than it is jocking for social status.

    This was a wonderful post. Very thought-provoking. I am so glad that I read it. 🙂

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