Public expectations of philosophy

A while ago, I discussed public expectations of philosophy versus those of the natural sciences in regard to intelligiblity. My dialogue is below.

Expectations of philosophy are different to esoteric work in the natural sciences because the public has more of an acquaintance with the former. I for one would be hard pressed to give examples of the latter. Furthermore, philosophy is fundamentally concerned with communicating with clarity; ‘true’ philosophy is intelligible.

…why do members of the educated public think that it is an objection to philosophical inquiry that it is unintelligible to them?

That is a silly question when you think about it. Do you have no preference for intelligibility? There is an expectation that philosophy should be relevant to how we live our lives, therefore intelligibility is a criterion. I hope we don’t blame the educated public for the inability of philosophers to communicate intelligibly.

Why should we care about what philosophers devote their energies to, rather than let a thousands flowers bloom, willy-nilly?

That is an easy question to answer: life is short and we want the best out of philosophy for our lives. Priorities and concerns matter!

I still don’t think Academia in general is taking the public’s complaints about its philosophical production seriously enough. There is too much defensiveness, bluster, dodging and denial of the issue, and care for social status when these complaints are raised, rather than serious philosophical investigation.


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