BY OTTO PAANS
In the first installment in this series on the nature and varieties of philosophical bullshit, I dealt with the topic of incoherent philosophical bullshit.
In this second installment, I deal with professional philosophical bullshit.
There are multiple ways of dealing with this topic. One way would be to collect samples that one might think of as professional bullshit. Another would be to characterize a core set of bullshit statements that are largely (and silently) accepted in the professional academia climate. I will mostly follow the second approach, but will make frequent use of the first technique to illustrate my argument with specific examples.
My basic argument in this essay will be that professional philosophical bullshit ensures its survival by coercively promoting an ideological-methodological “2-for-1” package deal in three specific ways:
(i) disciplining and pre-structuring philosophers’ minds in ways that is implicitly coercive,
(ii) using “knockdown arguments” as an intellectual technology for demanding a form of obedience that (silently) accepts existing (ideological) frameworks, concepts and notions,
(iii) structuring philosophical discussions as an array of competing schools or “factory-brands” and positions that lead gradually to increasingly Scholastic (in the bad sense) and yet also increasingly assembly-line-like, industry-like philosophical debates, as opposed to dialogues.
Points (i) to (iii) converge as the ideological-methodological (henceforth “ideo-methodological”) 2-for-1 package deal of professional bullshit.
This set of ideologically-driven methodological assumptions pre-configures much contemporary philosophical inquiry.
I will examine a number of strategies that are employed by proponents of professional bullshit, whether consciously or unconsciously. The list might not be complete, but will provide at least some indicators that might help to evaluate philosophical works that are, specifically, concerned with philosophical theories and theorizing.
2. Some Preliminary Philosophical Fly-Swatting
At this point, I might face some objections from critical readers:
If I intend to criticize the work of peers, do I not place them in the “enemy camp,” painting their contributions to the discipline of philosophy in unnecessarily bleak colors?
Am I not unjustly accusing well-meaning academics, colleagues, and peers who work in a hyper-specialized field, but that nevertheless do their best to produce genuinely new, original work within some pre-set boundaries?
Moreover, who am I to judge? Suppose that someone has been working in philosophy of mind for the last thirty years, who I am with my generalist assumptions to judge his contribution to the field?
Well, since these flies have not yet been let out of the Wittgensteinian bottle, the best I can do at this point is to swat them down.
First, of course, I concede that I might be wrong about the contributions of person X or Y, as it were, Prof X or Prof Y.
Prof X and Prof Y might currently be in the same predicament as Vincent van Gogh once found himself: not understood by ignorant, narrow-minded contemporaries, yet triumphantly, although posthumously, rehabilitated by philosophical history.
However, pointing out one way that I could be wrong seems to me no sufficient reason for stopping my critical metaphilosophizing, but on the contrary, a sufficient reason for going on doing it in a serious way.
What if I am neither ignorant nor narrow-minded? That seems equally or more possible than the contrary.
Second, being misunderstood because one is a genius is exceptional.
Geniuses are rare, so to hold that everyone who is not understood must therefore be a genius seems rather implausible to me.
Third, my concern is here the current state of the discipline of professional academic philosophy.
Reflecting on the current state of affairs seems to me a necessary activity for every philosopher. The ideas and observations that I make here are thus not always about the works of individuals, but mainly about the implications of their work for the discipline at large.
The history of philosophy shows that the subject of critical thinking is directed outwards to other topics, but also reflectively inwards towards its own activity.
As such, I intend to practice a form of critical metaphilosophy here – a philosophical investigation into philosophy itself.
Fourth, I agree with Lawrence Krauss’s thesis that education should be geared towards making people smarter, not towards reinforce what they already believe.[i]
Analogously, I believe that philosophy, properly done, has an effective power for rationally confronting people, enabling them to think about their own cognitive and practical emancipation—that being so, I see no reason merely to describe what people already believe, like the 2009 PhilPapers survey of professional academic philosophers.
My imaginary critic might ask: ‘What about the professional academic philosopher who works within some existing framework(s) for thinking and is perfectly happy just cranking away there?’
Am I not accusing him of manufacturing and distributing bullshit, although he himself does not mean to do that?
My answer here is an uncompromising commitment to real philosophy.
This qualification seems to me to be not only very useful but also fully apt for my present purpose: there are forms of philosophy that one may not agree with, but that are fully authentic or real in their search for answers.
For example, if one is an embodied mind theorist, then the thought experiments of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons or Bernard Williams’ ruminations in The Self and the Future, in which brains are freely moved around between empty heads may simply seem to miss the point.
These thought experiments presuppose some form of dualism that for an embodied mind theorist is simply unacceptable. Nevertheless, the implications of the thought experiments themselves or the line of reasoning to which they belong might be quite illuminating.
Let’s call this type of philosophy for now ‘honest philosophy’.[ii] We might disagree with the content of honest philosophy, but we do appreciate the sincere effort and spirit of seriousness with which it is conducted.
Another objection leveled at me by my imaginary critic might be that I minimize the genuine advances that professional academic philosophy has made. As Scott Soames has pointed out, e.g., contemporary philosophy has during the last 150 years contributed significantly to areas like decision theory, epistemology, formal logic etc.[iii]
Undoubtedly, this is true. However, to maintain that professional academic philosophy has contributed to understanding in some areas is no sufficient reason for exempting it from metaphilosophical critique.
Thoughtful, systematic, critical reflection should bring out the shortcomings that emerge as a consequence of conducting professional academic philosophy as it is generally done.
It should reveal where its current practice falters and where our understanding could become far deeper if the practice of philosophy were to become more open-minded, pluralistic, or methodologically creative.
I will start my survey by outlining three general developments that are used to keep professional philosophical bullshit “in the saddle”: the ideological part-of the package deal.
3. The Academic Turn: From Philosophy in the Street to Philosophy in the Academy
Nowadays, just as in the time of Schopenhauer’s 19th century German “university philosophy,” professional academic philosophy presupposes the deep suspicion that philosophy done outside academic circles, in the street, aka the agora, aka “the marketplace,” is incoherent, ignorant, hopelessly naïve, nonsensical, pretentious, or otherwise fully disqualified to contribute significantly to human understanding.
The implicit idea is that the professional academic system is a quality-control-mechanism for excellent research, thus contributing to the steady advance of human understanding.
Conversely, the professional academic system itself determines what good or bad quality is: it counts itself as a quality-controlled professional philosophical environment, delivering professionals who do philosophy for a living, with official certifications, including MAs and PhDs, three or four levels of professorships (assistant prof, associate prof, full prof, endowed/named full prof, aka “bigass”), and so on.
The critical question that arises immediately is whether the existing order is the right critical arbiter for evaluating and judging old and new ideas alike?
Well, it might be if there were no other stakes involved.
The existing order will not always strangle all new ideas and all independently-minded philosophers in their cribs – innovation would become impossible if it were so.
But as the examples above show, professional academic philosophy can nevertheless very effectively strangle some new ideas in their cribs, and then hang the corpses at the crossroads, thereby having a decidedly air-thinning effect on the overall professional academic atmosphere.
In a word, the existing order can scare otherwise creative people and free-thinkers shitless.
The idea that philosophy that is practiced outside the professional academy is inherently suspect would have probably caused Hobbes, Hume, Locke, De Montaigne, Rousseau, Spinoza, and Schopenhauer to raise their eyebrows and drop their jaws in amazement.
Authentic or real philosophy has historically been practiced by people who were either unemployed, who had a distinct craft-like or professional occupation to keep body and soul together, or who philosophized as a sophisticated pastime activity
Socrates, e.g., was an unemployed stonemason who spent all his time hanging around the agora or marketplace, talking to people.
Spinoza, e.g., ground lenses as a daytime job and philosophized on the side.
And De Montaigne, e.g., was a nobleman who practiced philosophy because he felt the need to.
None of these people were fulltime professional academic philosophers.
And Socrates, the Buddha or Jesus of real philosophy as we know it, was nothing more and nothing less than a super-intelligent, highly unconventional, “unemployed bum” with “mental health issues.”
(Socrates went into trances on a regular basis and presumably suffered from some sort of epilepsy.)
People who most probably did not view themselves as career philosophers authored large parts of the accepted professional academic philosophical canon.
Their passionate intellectual and moral lives drove them to philosophize, and this accounts significantly for the historical variety of great works of philosophy.
Philosophy, in this sense, is not importantly different from the sciences.
Although Charles Darwin is often held up as the prototypical inquisitive natural scientist, most people forget that he conducted many experiments from his house in Kent, and that he had no proof for many aspects of evolutionary theory when he finally decided to publish his ideas.
Still, it is a seriously open question whether someone like Darwin would even get a hearing in today’s professional academic climate.
In all likelihood, he would be seen as an eccentric person with scientific pretensions, a “failed academic” or “would-be academic,” with interesting ideas, but above all as an amateur – someone whose findings could not be trusted because he worked outside the professional academy.
At this point, we might specifically draw attention to the professional aspect of professional academic philosophy.
A professional is someone who has the proper degrees and official certification to deal with a problem in an area where s/he – due to his or her educational and professional background – can be considered an expert.
This expertise guarantees the quality of the results, as it were, and requires payment for her/his services.
When you want a garden shed constructed in your backyard, you call a certified carpenter. Why? Simply because you wish to assure that the carpenter can construct a shed that does not collapse, leak or otherwise falls short of your reasonable expectations, at an affordable cost.
Part of what makes you believe that the carpenter is an expert may be that he seems to know what he doing, that he has acquired the proper training, and that the end result can be verified and tested by you, lest you withhold payment of his fee.
None of these things holds up very well in philosophy, however, except of course for the payment-for-services-rendered character of professional academic philosophy.
Many theories in real philosophy do not even allow for a definitive test; some schools of thought are wildly contradictory; or even worse, they simply fail to see the point of philosophizing in the way that proponents of other competing schools do.
Theories that looked historically very plausible and had fierce and even famous defenders could be easily refuted by someone with a different approach, or simply be discarded and shoveled into “the dust-bin of history” when people and culture moved on, thereby dramatically altering the epistemic landscape.
Resorting to professionalism in the academy is therefore no guarantee for qualitatively good or innovative philosophy.
Even a quick look at the 20th century shows that major figures in both Analytic and Continental philosophy were not professional academic philosophers, or were “failed academics,” or at best accidental academics, yet had a decisive impact on human thinking.
Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Guy Debord, Emma Goldman, Charles Sanders Peirce, Michael Polanyi, and A.N. Whitehead were not professional academic philosophers, but they all wrote works that had a lasting impact on philosophy.
And even Russell and Wittgenstein had fraught connections with professional academic philosophy, despite being academics for at least parts of their careers.
Russell was a lecturer and fellow at Cambridge for only 6 years, from 1910-1916, then was expelled from Cambridge, then reinstated for a year in 1920, resigned in 1921, returned to Cambridge 1944-49, and after that left academia forever.
So you might call that a stormy relationship, one amongst Russell’s many stormy relationships.
Wittgenstein worked as an academic philosopher for a few years before WW I, quit for 15 years, returned in 1929 when he was begged by his Cambridge admirers, especially Ramsey, to come back (“Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train,” Keynes wrote to his wife), was given a PhD by them for the Tractatus, published 8 years earlier, and was was eventually appointed to a Chair in 1939, even despite all his notorious eccentricities and the fact that he had no significant philosophical publications since 1921.
I think it’s probably safe to say that early-20th century Cambridge is the one place in the universe where all this would have been possible.
Otherwise Wittgenstein would have been just another super-intelligent, highly unorthodox, unemployed bum with “mental health issues,” like Socrates.
So you might call Wittgenstein a paradigm case of the “accidental academic.”
4. The Scientized, Capitalized Model of Inquiry, and Coercive Philosophy
The idea that science and philosophy are based on systematic inquiry that largely took place in the confines of the universities is a false representation of history. It is based on a silent and surprisingly recent presupposition that sometimes is made explicit: philosophy should be like the natural sciences in method, style and outcome.
This takes philosophy to be nothing but a methodical, predefined, specialized, objective, and distanced, activity, building small pieces of knowledge on other small pieces of knowledge.
This point of view has been defended most notably and explicitly by the so-called Logical Positivists in the early 20th century.[vi]
But although Logical Positivism in its pure form has faded, its influence is still pervasive—Vienna Circle exile X begat well-known 1990s philosopher Y, who begat well-known contemporary philosopher Z, etc., in Apostolic succession of PhD supervisors and supervisees—and is most clearly visible in contemporary analytic philosophy.[vii]
This preoccupation with the natural sciences has led to a presupposed ahistorical understanding of philosophy: the arguments that historical figures made can be rephrased in technical terms, and can be interpreted without taking their context, the age in which they originated and the different epistemic background against they were formulated into account.[viii]
How important this epistemic background is can be clearly observed in the emergence of the Vienna Circle itself. In an effort to logicize mathematics, and then logico-mathematize philosophy, new theories and propositions had to be modeled according to familiar logical systems.
This development had had a lasting influence, making many good professional careers, but it has also marginalized the work of almost a whole generation of philosophers who did not or partially agree with this tendency, or who simply opted out of the debate.
Especially in the philosophy of science, the effects of this schism are still felt. The many philosophical works on science from philosophers like Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, Georges Bataille, Alain Badiou, or Hans Vaihinger are still relatively neglected.[ix]
We can as it were see the different approaches in philosophy see take shape: on one hand, the analytic, supposedly ahistorical philosophy that would culminate in the Wiener Kreis, Logical Positivism, and Ordinary Language Philosophy; and the other hand, the history-oriented philosophy that would develop throughout the 20th century in different continental schools such as phenomenology, Existentialism, and Neo-Kantianism.
The problem here is not just that analytic philosophy is committed to clarity or focused on argumentation, or that is “logocentric,” as Gary Gutting puts it.[x]
Philosophers of many types, schools, and backgrounds adhere to these core values. Reason has no home-country, School, or “brand-name.”
The real problem is located elsewhere: scientific ideals and scientific methodologies silently determine the type of philosophical inquiry, the accompanying epistemology or metaphysics that is adhered to, the type of theories that are permitted, or the procedures that count as methodologically rigorous.
In the Introduction to Philosophical Explanations, Robert Nozick observed that philosophy has grown largely into a coercive enterprise, a fact that is reflected in the vocabulary used to describe philosophical debates.
Arguments are said to “carry a punch,” or can be used as “knockdown” argument. The best argument “forces” the opponent to accept the conclusion, however grudgingly.
The charges that can be applied to those who do not accept the knockdown argument are that they are irrational, inconsistent, or pathetic intellectual weaklings, defending the “weaker” argument.[xi]
The problem with this approach to philosophy is that it treats arguments as sledgehammers or other more precise cutting tools, undermining the role of values and metaphysics that guide the interpretation of facts.
The cause of this turn in philosophy lies in the reduction of professional philosophy to a series of knockdown arguments in brutalizing, war-like debates: once the argumentative fortress is built, the drawbridge is pulled up, and no objection can enter there.
Nozick notes that by presenting philosophical progress as a series of such decisive, definite arguments, the audience is only required to memorize the most popular variants of the knockdown arguments in order to be always right.
However, this defeats the precise, critical purpose of philosophy and especially philosophical education: demonstrating peoples how to think critically and freely for themselves.
I believe that the idea of the “knockdown argument” is professional philosophy’s attempt to come up with a counterpart of natural law in science and the “killer application” or “unique selling point” in capitalist business practice.
If, e.g., a scientist were to start working today within the confines of the heliocentric theory of the universe, everyone would declare him insane.
The reason is that science ideally claims to discover the truth via a gradual (if bumpy) process.
The ideal of gradual approximation to the absolute truth implies that certain laws or invariants are discovered, and earlier theories can be safely discarded, because the more recent discoveries render earlier theories or laws obsolete.
The domain of useless, obsolete theories thus grows as science progresses, while the approximation to the absolute truth narrows the range of available options down, so that we might one day end up with a concise grand unified theory of everything.
When this idealized picture is taken as a model for practicing philosophy, it is hardly surprising that “knockdown arguments” acquire the status of necessary technology providing access to the absolute truth discovered by the sciences.
The “knockdown argument” is presented as the latest precision tool in epistemology or metaphysics for “carving nature at the joints,” as per Ted Sider’s Writing the Book of the World, more accurately titled Carving the Carcass of the World.
Knock it down, then carve it up into epistemic or metaphysical atomic chunks, ready for easy roasting at the annual series of professional academic intellectual barbecues, aka the variety of conferences and conventions. Even Hegel, ranking with the most systematic of philosophers, was fully against such simplification in the name of systemic rigor, and he refutes such attempts at length in the preface to the Phenomenology.
This trend can be seen in a recent paper that mapped the beliefs of professional philosophers: most of them were materialists, and accepted the findings of natural science as more or less given.
Significantly, this set of beliefs was often coupled to a preference for liberal, egalitarian politics, humanism and atheism.[xii]
Professional academic philosophy has therefore gradually prepared a “package deal”: a series of foolproof knockdown arguments, epistemic or metaphysical precision tools, easily applied to pre-perforated subject-matters, the carcass-world of chunks and joints, then shrinkwrap-packaged and made ready for marketing and distribution.
What remains is a correspondingly strictly limited number of pre-formatted philosophical hyper-specializations that jointly make up the standard supermarket array of beliefs available to the contemporary professional academic philosopher.
The philosopher is as it were encouraged to look at all the variety on the shelves! Just pick one – that’s “free-thinking” for you.
When professional academic philosophy is doubly framed as (i) a form of idealized natural science, and (ii) as “production for use,” it is not surprising that the prevailing beliefs start to converge and congeal in easily shrinkwrapped, microwavable, easily chewed, bite-size pieces.
Because decisive evidence to the contrary is readily available, no contemporary physicist would accept theories for a flat earth or heliocentric universe.
The range of acceptable theories is narrowed down by progressively decisive evidence.
For philosophy, however, there is no final appeal for such decisive evidence.
The history of philosophy reads, instead, as a complex dynamic process of ideas that are by turns affirmed, rejected, transformed, cycled, and recycled.[xiii]
Moreover, many philosophical ideas and theories that have apparently gone into “the dustbin of history,” in fact have gone into the recycle bin of history, remaining potentially available and recombinable, transformable, and transmutable, as “concept-radicals,” awaiting new applications in new contexts, even while the natural sciences have progressed enormously.
Core questions about personal identity, free will, or justice have still no definitive answers.
Wittgenstein noted pithily that even if all our scientific questions were answered, all our philosophical problems would still remain unsolved.
However, professional academic philosophy treats current trends in philosophy as conveyor belts for delivering theoretical “state-of-the-art” products.
Philosophers working in the Thomistic tradition, dualists, or (God forbid) panpsychists are absolute minorities in the philosophical community, while their ideas – and more importantly – their questions are truly worth listening to, ready for seemingly inexhaustible recycling.
The conception of philosophy as derivative from the natural sciences and capitalist modes of production, however, has locked professional philosophy into an unnecessarily narrow scientistic, reductionist, and materialist framework.
The underlying idea seems to be to destroy, discard, and dump old ideas, burying them in the landfill of history, or to recycle and re-use them in order to create a new, trendy topic – with the added clarification that the weirdly historical theory of philosopher X must not be taken seriously, but that it fits perfectly to highlight new trendy theory Y.
This exceptionally narrow, weirdly capitalist metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology have collectively yielded a philosophical framework that, for all its scientism and its highly marketable, cutting-edge gloss, is oddly Scholastic in character. The dynamics of diversification and the drive for anything new resemble oddly the corporate ethics of Silicon Valley, transcribed into philosophical practice.
As I have written elsewhere, philosophy of mind is an outstanding case study of all the schisms that might occur when philosophy starts to hyper-specialize.[xiv]
Arguably, it might take a lifetime of hyper-specialized inquiry to become acquainted with all the factions and subfactions in contemporary philosophy of mind, let alone to produce some new thoughts on the topic itself.
Professional academic philosophy might be in this sense its own worst enemy.
Where, historically, philosophers thought about the types of inquiry that they deemed fruitful, inventing their own tools, methods and insights in the process, this task has been outsourced nowadays to the natural sciences.
And, it must be admitted, the natural sciences have taken up this challenge wonderfully. No wonder then, that physicists like Steve Weinberg,[xv] Lawrence Krauss,[xvi] or Stephen Hawking[xvii] openly declare that the role of philosophy has no meaning for practicing contemporary science.
Deriving the methodological framework of philosophy from the natural sciences and capitalist production has turned many types of philosophical inquiry into conceptual vicious circle of reiterating and continually refining the same premises, only cut finer and finer, with sharper and sharper precision tools, leading to a highly Scholastic model of practicing philosophy that would seem more at home in the Middle Ages if it were not so eerily similar to robot-driven production systems in contemporary car-factories.
This “neo-Scholasticism for robots” leads quite naturally to the idea that philosophical debates take place between proponents of different Schools or factory brands—as it were, Ford, Chrysler, and GM for analytic philosophers–instead of between independently-minded, genuinely free-thinking individuals.
5. The Idea of Philosophical Schools/Factory Brands and Philosophical Positions
It is customary to refer to a group of philosophers with roughly the same opinion as a “school of thought.” Two of these schools are for example dualism and materialism.
However, each faction is subdivided into further sub-factions. We might for example distinguish between substance dualists and property dualists.
This further distinction is used to do justice to the differences between the dualists themselves. Being a dualist does not automatically mean that someone is a substance dualist.
This point of departure seems reasonable: if we engage with someone’s philosophical position, we might wish to make sure that we engage with what he actually holds, instead of putting words in the mouth of our conversation partner.
The goal of this further precision-tool cutting and refinement is to engage with the arguments themselves, to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses and implicit assumptions.
Nevertheless, when the idea of belonging to a certain School is taken for granted, the fine distinctions between individuals in those schools fade again into the background.
A particular nice case in which the ideo-methodology of “Schools” obfuscated inquiry and led to a series of misunderstandings can be found in the liberal-communitarian debate during the 1980s and 1990s.
Some communitarian philosophers[xviii] accused John Rawls of imagining the individuals in his Theory of Justice as atomic, asocial individuals who were presented as existing apart from their goals and attachments.
The communitarian critics maintained that the individuality of rational, autonomous individuals is not something that could be seen apart from the attachments and goals of these individuals.
If person X were determined to become a great painter or sculptor someday, this goal would reflect on his actions, his interests and his intellectual development.
Thus, the fact that individual X and his goals were conceptualized apart from one another pointed – according to the communitarians – to a major flaw in liberal thinking.
Liberals, in turn, pointed out that they never had meant to argue for an atomistic, asocial society, and that they found some of the communal ambitions of communitarians strangely Marxist aka “neo-Marxist,” or based on overly holist models of society.
In addition, Charles Taylor rightly pointed out that not all liberal thinkers endorsed Rawls’ brand of liberalism, and that being a liberal did not mean that one was automatically committed to some form of atomism.
Taylor notes that he saw himself more a “holistic liberal” – someone who values communities, yet beliefs in individual responsibility and autonomy.[xix]
In the end, it turned out that much of the communitarian critique had been directed against a liberal straw man: by relying on a generic description of what the “average liberal” was supposed to maintain, the communitarians failed to develop a thorough critique of liberalism – although some of the issues they raised were well worth the effort.
To add insult to injury, Taylor cited Von Humboldt as a paradigmatic holistic liberal – someone who could serve as an example to counter the individualistic type of liberalism that Rawls was held to espouse.[xx]
Ironically, Rawls himself referred to Von Humboldt as the prime example of someone who understood the importance of contractarian, individualist type of reasoning.[xxi]
In both camps, philosophers meant to strike decisive blows against their opponents, but in reality the whole debate was locked into coordinates that were already existing, thus reiterating unquestioned presuppositions.
In other words, both parties forgot to question the very terms of the debate, leaving fundamental issues untouched while addressing minor Scholastic points.
In the case of the communitarians, this absence of questioning prevented them from going beyond the boundaries that the liberals and libertarians had already presupposed in order to predetermine the debate.
Virtually all of the political theory written by major theorists like Ronald Dworkin, Robert Nozick and John Rawls has been conducted within the historical coordinates already set by Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant’s “Doctrine of Right.”
Despite their differences, all these analytic philosophers asserted a rights-based, liberal conception of the person, coupled to a narrow set of theories about cooperation and contractarianism.
The true tragedy was that the communitarians accepted this frame of reference, and failed to come up with a true alternative to liberal-democratic-egalitarian thought. Their mistake was to play by the rules of the opponent, and instead of questioning their frame of reference they just questioned minor points within the liberal theory.
The chance to formulate a critical counter-theory ended once more in Scholastic precision-tool cutting, split hair by split hair, essentially like theological disputes in medieval philosophy.
The problem with the idea of Schools or factory brands is that it was intended to bring clarity in the debates, so that participants could focus on the arguments themselves.
Yet, this intention strangled itself in its own crib, and the very idea of philosophical Schools or factory-brand philosophizing has therefore caused endless, pointless, winner-takes-all debates instead of turning them into dialogues where clarity and genuinely presupposition-questioning critical, constructive, outside-the-box thinking can happen.
Worse, the positions that are defined by declaring a new School or factory-brand are virtually always taken as the alpha-and-omega coordinates of the debate, hence the type of debate that can be had is fully predetermined by the dominant, existing philosophical Schools or factory-brands.
The fact that there is a range of options to choose from, does not in itself justify the range of available options.[xxii]
All those different types of liberalism or egalitarian do not vindicate this political orientation as the best or the ultimate one. Precisely in the absence of a conceivable alternative, philosophy has to critically question the existing situation.
6. The Methodological Package Deal of Professional Bullshit: A Concise Exposition
The preceding three developments form the ideological part of the package deal of professional philosophy:
first, an overemphasis on professionalism that monopolized philosophical practice
second, this monopolization was combined with a form of coercive arguing that was adopted to mimic 20th century scientific practice according to Logical Positivism, plus
third, the development of the deeply fused Scholastic/Big Capitalist structure of Schools or factory brands and schisms.
Elsewhere, this lovely shrinkwrapped socio-cultural and political package has been called “scientistic statism.”[xxiii]
The widespread acceptance of this double package has paved the way for a series of three developments and trends in thinking that can be identified from a generalist, bird’s eye point of view as the methodological part of the package deal:
(i) early, forced, endemic hyper-specialization, generating a deep mistrust of organicism and holism,
(ii) precision-tool carved ideas: endless, pointless debates grounded on deeply empty ideas as a consequence of hyper-specialization, and
(iii) the pre-establishment of unexamined deeply false presuppositions, aka thoughtlessly simplified philosophical worldviews, under the guise of “methodological rigor”
Taken together, I maintain that these three developments essentially constitute the professional bullshit in contemporary professional philosophy.
I am not claiming that these three elements are exhaustive, but I do strongly suspect that any further distinctions would be merely epicycles of and mere riffs or variations on the trends outlined here.
7. Hyper-Specialization: The Nemesis of Holism and Organicism
From approximately the 1920s onwards, it became impossible to know everything that was going on in one’s respective academic discipline.
Specialization in natural science increased and is still increasing.
Philosophy followed basically the same pattern, under the influence of the scientized model of inquiry – although it took more time.
The rise of analytic philosophy as “scientific philosophy” marked an age of increased specialization and the orientation towards philosophical problem solving.
Samuel Wheeler has recently noted that this early specialization might well be the undoing of the unity of philosophy.[xxiv]
The rise of hyper-specialization in the professional academy since World War II, with another power-boost after the end of the Cold War, has led to an explosion in literature, as every hyper-specialized field of study generated and increasingly generates its own substantial literature.
The relentless weekly bibliographic feeds from PhilPapers are full confirmation of this.
When one wanted to study vagueness or comparative adjectives, the whole literature could be reviewed in a short span of time – it was easy to review and comprehend what was written on a certain topic.
Yet, nowadays this is almost impossible.
Even just keeping track of the literature on vagueness alone can drive the truly diligent Scholar-philosopher to the verge of “mental health issues.”
This development massively increases the pressure on graduate students, or even undergraduate students, to hyper-specialize as early as possible in their careers.
As a consequence, the classic, broad knowledge base that philosophers of different brands once shared is rapidly disintegrating into atomic, shrinkwrapped chunks of “knowledge,” itself precision-sliced further and further into hyper-hyper-specialized micro-chunks.
AOS: Formal Models of Vagueness, Hyper-Vagueness, Vague Formal Models of Vagueness, Vague Formal Models of Hyper-Vagueness, Analytic metaphysics.
And these people laughed hysterically at The Sokal Hoax?
Early forced endemic hyper-specialization has given rise to the idea that generalist theories are rather suspect, 19th– century, mad, Hegelian, vaguely metaphysical or even anti-liberal – with Popper’s attack on Hegel and Marx[xxv] as the most well-known instance of this type of thinking.
Hyper-specialization is treated as the professional skeleton-key to universal “cutting-edge,” precision-tool, shrinkwrapped scholarship and grant-funded respectability, especially in logic, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and philosophy of mind.
The emphasis on specialization and solving of narrowly defined problems is again inherently related to the practices of natural science and Big Capitalism, the two basic engines of scientistic statism.
In this scheme of things, there is little or no place at all for broad, generalist theories that try to re-conceptualize the notion of truth from the ground up, or that are concerned with the myriad particularities of the human condition.
One could imagine a hardline proponent of professional philosophy saying: “Perhaps in the dark misty 19th century or early 20th century, this would have been acceptable. But not in contemporary professional academic philosophy.”
British emergentism and the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead were relatively short-lived outbursts of more holistically inclined, organicist ways of thinking.
Henri Bergson’s version of process philosophy, for all its fame in the interwar years, received a brief yet essentially Cantab-style condescending treatment in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.
Other than that, holist, organicist forms of philosophy were regarded as not specialized enough, or as philosophical enterprises that claimed too much and proved too little.
What is striking in Russell’s essentially dismissive treatment of Bergson’s philosophy is that he seems completely at a loss about what to do with it.
And yet ironically, his erstwhile Principia Mathematica collaborator, Whitehead, thought that Bergson was brilliant.
Russell sees Bergsonism as a merely poetic form of philosophy that lacks explanatory power, but that seems oddly at home in modern times.
Russell’s mistrust might stem precisely from this indecision: the scientistic mind literally hasn’t a clue what to do with theories that fall outside its joint-carving definition of truth.
Even more ironically, Russell himself went through more theories of truth than most people have had hot lunches.
The same indecisive split can be observed in Popper’s work: either a theory is scientifically testable, or it is mystical or metaphysical.[xxvi]
Note that for Popper, the metaphysical and mystical fit together in the same category, as if mystical experience is on a par with metaphysical reasoning.
The bullshit that is being presented here is of course this: anything that falls outside the scope of the current scientific conceptual framework can be safely dismissed and written off as “windy mysticism” (as Ryle said of the second half of Heidegger’s Being and Time), or as “sortally contradictory semantic nonsense” (as Carnap said of Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics).
Yet, foundational figures like Hume and Kant form the metaphysical building blocks of modern science, a fact often that remains unspoken.
Kant was especially well aware of how deeply important metaphysics was for practicing natural and formal science.
The irony is that it is, precisely, generalist theories that can play an essential, vital role in re-uniting the fragmented parts of contemporary professional academic philosophy, by focusing on broadly shared foundations and lines of inquiry.
It is striking that Hegel has received serious attention as a philosopher in analytic circles, e.g., in the work of Robert Brandom.[xxvii]
Simultaneously, Thomas Nagel, in Mind and Cosmos, has resuscitated an organicist metaphysical notion of teleology – a topic that has been almost unthinkable in mainstream philosophy since the 1920s.
Predictably, he was angrily and widely criticized in print, and scornfully dismissed in the graduate students lounges, faculty offices, and departmental offices of top-ranked philosophy departments.
The rehabilitation of these notions points at least in the direction of resurgence of generalist theories or to a new, revitalized role for metaphysics.
8. Carving Ideas at the Joints: Empty Ideas as a Consequence of Hyper-Specialization
The professional academic philosophical mistrust of holism and organicism has manifested itself in hyper-specialization.
This trend, in turn, caused a new trend: the seemingly infinite refinement of ideas that were already quite refined and conceptually narrowed down.
We can call this carving ideas at the joints because, at the level of concepts, it so perfectly mirrors the Analytic metaphysician’s guiding scientistic methodological metaphor of “carving nature at the joints.”
Just as Analytic metaphysics engages in the conceptual butchery of nature at the joints of its primitively natural (i.e., scientifically known) properties, so too it is possible for professional academic philosophers to engage in the conceptual butchery of concepts at their semantic joints.
The interesting feature of this conceptual refinement is that it works in two directions simultaneously: downwards, it slices ideas in smaller and smaller pieces until they are literally devoid of any content.
Upwards, it produces equally empty “higher-order truths” about empty ideas.
The downward movement is the conceptual equivalent of slicing a cake in smaller and smaller pieces, only to find out that at some point there is nothing more to slice.
The upward movement is comparable with multiplying whatever number by zero: no matter what number you substitute, the answer will remain zero.
As to the downward movement, Peter Unger defines an “empty idea” as an idea that delineates no way for concrete reality to be from other ways that concrete reality could be.
Here is a straightforward example: “Someone will perceive a cat nearby here, only if there is a cat nearby her.”
On a commonsense definition of perceiving, this is indeed true, but utterly trivial.
Unger calls such ideas “empty ideas,” since they lack semantic substance.
It looks very rigorous to formulate one’s ideas in such a way. It seems as if the author likes to make his point as precisely as possible.
However, put this way, the empty idea makes no useful distinction between alternative ways that we could use to describe reality anymore.
It resembles in structure what Daniel Dennett called the “deepity”[xxviii] – a statement that subtly switches between two meanings:
- It is true, but trivial
- If it were actually true, the consequences would be earth-shattering
An example of a deepity would be: “love is just a word.”[xxix]
In one sense, this statement is true, but also utterly uninformative.
But if it were literally true, and love was just a word, whole bookcases of literature and libraries full of songs would have been written and composed about a four-letter word – a possibility that seems very hard to swallow.
The deepity alternates between the two meanings it can have, and this oscillation creates a sense of profound depth that is just out of reach.
Unger argues that much analytic philosophy has concerned itself with producing and discussing empty ideas.
In other words, professional philosophical bullshit is shrinkwrapped profundity.
If Unger is right, then the true target of The Sokal Hoax should probably not be poststructuralist theory, but analytic philosophy.
And indeed, this example from a (otherwise excellent) journal paper recaptures Unger’s example of an empty idea almost word for word:
In fact, an appropriate description of the intention matches an appropriate description of the action. If there is a lack of fit between the two, questions are raised about the degree to which the action is intentional, or about the correctness of the individuation of either the action or the intention. Famously, in order for someone to murder someone else, he must have the appropriate intention to kill the person in question. Otherwise the action is not appropriately described as murder.[xxx]
Continual refinement of ideas leads thus to a conceptual emptiness that leaves philosophy little possibilities to add anything about reality at all.
From this perspective, it is no wonder that philosophy has vanished from the street scene or agora, and has retreated into the (neoliberalized) academy.
The ideas produced by professional academic philosophy might be correct in theory, but have little to add about concrete reality – both in the metaphysical and moral sense.
In the upward movement, professional academic philosophy is in search of higher-order truths.
These truths add yet a further layer of overarching principles that make world-mechanisms at lower levels possible.
A fully articulated theory of atomic interactions makes a fully developed theory of molecular interactions possible, setting the conditions for how molecules have to function.
This conception has seeped into philosophy as well.
To be sure, philosophy has been concerned with finding ultimate Truth for a long time.
Famously, Plato conceived of an ideal realm that was distinct from our own imperfect reality, and philosophy was a way to look into the ideal realm (‘eidos’ means ‘look’).
The basic difference between platonic realism and modern or contemporary philosophy is that the notion of ultimate Truth has been inscribed in the discourse of modern natural science.
The thought seems to be: If there is something like an ultimate Truth, it will reveal itself in the same way that physics uncovers higher truths about its subject matter.
This is the scientistic method at work again – subconsciously structuring the progress of inquiry and setting standards on how the structure of reality should look like.
In a 2006 paper entitled “Higher-Order Truths About Chmess,” Daniel Dennett has pointed out the dangers of thinking in terms of higher-order truths for any given topic.[xxxi]
As example, he used the game of chess: due to the strict rules of the game, it is possible to derive a substantial number of a priori truths about how the game functions, and to predict how it will function.
We could, however, imagine a variation in chess, called chmess. In chmess, the king can move two squares in every direction instead of only one square. A whole new field of new a priori truths opens up.
By analogy, philosophical activity is often directed at “intriguing” Scholastic questions that may or may not be the next hot topic on the philosophical agenda, the next new version of the iPhone at the Apple store.
However, the critical question to be asked is whether one should bother at all.
Suppose we have just invented the games of chtess and chress, in which the king can move three and four squares in every direction. New and untold a priori truths wait to be discovered.
Nevertheless, it seems absurd to think that these new inventions will usher in a new golden age of philosophy.
In the process of discovering new higher truths, questions about the relevance of particular topics are often dismissed: “Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that….”
Having philosophical arguments for their own sake is sometimes good practice, but always resorting to this argument avoids the real hard work: critically questioning which debates are worthy to be had.
Just as with the earlier example of the liberal-communitarian debate, not every debate does have real substance.
Worse even, some debates distract earnest philosophers away from important questions, leading to specialization in the Department of Advanced Trivialities.
The professional philosophical bullshit line here is that all topics equally merit investigation, and that deriving higher-order truths is good in itself.
This seems to me to express a deep disregard for the truth in a different way than that of the con man: the con man tries to advance his own agenda or tries to get away with a mix of truths and half-truths, but the professional academic philosophical bullshitter has a deep disregard for uncovering truths that are actually philosophically enlightening.
9. Smuggling in Unexamined Presuppositions Under the Guise of “Methodological Rigor”
Coercive philosophy is not as based on rational argument as it may seem.
A clear example case of this apparent rationality can be found in Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons. Following Sydney Shoemaker, a whole generation of analytic philosophers has been preoccupied with personal identity over time.[xxxii] The idea was that the concept of transitivity needed firmer foundations, adapted to the insights of modern science. However, what ensued was quite the opposite of a rational investigation.
Thought experiments in which brains were freely removed, distributed, replaced, erased, copied, and multiplied were all the rage in these debates.
The line of reasoning of which these thought experiments were part is clear: the idea was to isolate the property of identity (or lack thereof) with the help of logical, consistent reasoning and showing the implications of certain lines of thought. So far, this sounds plausible.
But the plausibility of this intellectual endeavor quickly disappears when one analyzes the unspoken presuppositions that have been smuggled in via the thought experiments.
If the brains of person A are freely moved around from body A to body B, and the question is “does A now reside in B’s body?” the unexamined presupposition is that A really resides in his brain, and that his body is irrelevant.
If, in a further thought experiment, A’s brain is split and the respective halves are distributed to his triplet brothers B and C, who are in urgent need of those halves, the question becomes “where did A go?”
For those who think that I am making up all this incredible stuff, this is an actual example from Derek Parfit.[xxxiii] These thought experiments fall perfectly into a tradition of misguided (yet rigorous-looking) reasoning that posits swampmen, people who sit under ocular trees that drop eyeballs into their empty eye sockets, people who weave their own hair to gain an income, philosophical zombies and Twin Earths.[xxxiv]
The fact that philosophers conduct weird thought experiments is no problem in itself. The real problems start well before the experiment and occur after it.
Before the philosopher devises a thought experiment, he sets out to prove something, tries to uncover the presuppositions of his thinking, or wishes to explore where his thought will lead him.
The problem is that often the experiment has unexamined false presuppositions built into it that haunt the further line of inquiry.
This can be clearly observed by examine the presuppositions lying behind Parfit’s argument to the effect that personal identity does not matter.
The first presupposition is the hidden dualism in the premises that continues to haunt the debate that was designed to overcome it.
If we remove A’s brain, place it in a machine and claim that A has now a machine body, we just presuppose that A’s disembodied, Cartesian cogito resides in A’s brain, and that A’s body has little or no role to play. If we conceive of persons in this way, we are prisoners in our own bodies.
The second presupposition that has been smuggled into the argument is that philosophical reasoning should proceed from first principles.
In the case of dealing with personal identity, this lead to ideas and concepts that directly contradict our empirical knowledge of the essential embodiment of the brain, not to mention our a priori knowledge of the essential embodiment of the mind.
Thomas Nagel’s classic 1971 article “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness” was a huge improvement on purely theoretical reasoning, since it cross-examined philosophical theories and scientific facts.[xxxv]
The paper resulted not in a simplistic reduction of philosophy to natural science, but opened much more intriguing questions and paradoxes that could not be answered by either of them.
More importantly, the paper showed that the questions of personal identity could not straightforwardly be linked to either psychological continuity or bodily continuity, thereby showing that conceptual inadequacy of accepted theories and ideas.
The third presupposition that had been smuggled into Parfit’s argument had to do with rigor: that reasoning from first principles and following them to the end exemplified methodologically rigorous reasoning.
The problem is, however, that from first principles, one might reason in all kinds of directions, but none of these directions need be correct.
One’s first principles might be flawed, but even if we grant that the first principles are correct, one might follow the absolutely wrong path with certainty.
One of the first signs that an inquiry leads to a dead end might be the diminishing returns on precision and rigor.[xxxvi]
In the case of personal identity, overdone precision and Scholasticism lead to the view that personal identity did not matter and that embodied consciousness can be treated as an epiphenomenon.
These “insights,” in turn paved the way for explaining consciousness in exclusively mechanist terms, as in Daniel Dennett’s book Consciousness Explained.
In addition, it paved the way for the idea that philosophy was all about the “higher-order truths” – lived, subjective experience could be safely treated as an epiphenomenon, like the shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave.
Philosophy, on the other hand, should look well beyond this “illusion” of consciousness and derive the higher-order truths that made it all possible – and here we are playing chmess again.
The only problem is that contemporary professional academic philosophy itself seems to be incapable of accessing the higher-order truths it demands by way of its obsession with rigor and specialization in theorizing.
Currently, this trend for rigorousness has found expression in the emergence of “neurohumanities”: in a recent experiment, the brain waves of participants were measured while they were reading Jane Austen novels.[xxxvii]
Still, it remains fundamentally mysterious what kinds of insight one wishes to derive from such investigations.
Even if we map the neuronal patterns that are caused by reading activity, how will this generate insight about the enjoyment of art?
As long as this question remains unanswered, problems will be defined merely in terms of the available precision tools for “cutting-edge” scholarship.
The experimental setup might look “rigorous,” but as long as collecting measurements is counted as knowledge, we are just afloat on the ocean of particulars, as Hegel put it.[xxxviii]
The problems that occur after the thought experiment has been presented to the public are even more severe. The experiment has now to be interpreted, its significance has to be asserted and the new terrain it has uncovered has to be explored.
In the case of the thought experiments involving migrating brains, this has led to an impressive range of intriguing, yet contradictory concepts and ideas.
For example, Parfit has asserted that personal identity does not matter in survival.
Yet, the arguments he provides for such a claim rest on a foundation that seems rigorous, but is dependent on a few assumptions woven into a series of thought experiments that have to bear a lot of explanatory strain.
Once the consequences of the thought experiments are accepted, the assumptions they contain are silently accepted for follow-up thoughts and theories derived from them.
The persistent tendency to conceptualize personal identity in terms of psychological or bodily continuity has pushed panpsychic or embodied consciousness accounts to the fringe of the philosophical debate, and has silently reinscribed Descartes’ deeply questionable metaphysical distinction between the mental and the physical in modern scientific terms.
From this point of view, it is no wonder that some scientists wonder what philosophy actually adds to understanding the world.
If philosophy cannot synthesize scientific, conceptual and phenomenological facts into genuinely new theories that extend our understanding or the conditions of our understanding, then this critical question seems fully justified.
Here, again, is The Pilgrim’s Progress of professional philosophical bullshit.
By turning from the street scene or agora to the (neoliberalized) academy, philosophy has increasingly isolated itself, leading to a radical narrowing down of accepted topics and modes of philosophizing.
By modeling philosophical inquiry on methods of natural science and Big Capitalist production methods, hyper-specialization has led to an equally Scholastic and neoliberal scheme of philosophical Schools or factory brands, and has systematically cultivated dismissive suspicion towards generalist philosophical theories, especially of a holistic or organicist character.
This pervasive atttitude of dismissive suspicion has led, in turn, to the construction of narrowly defined sub-disciplines that create and cultivate empty ideas.
These empty ideas, in turn, contain unexamined false presuppositions that are masked by apparent methodological rigor, but continue covertly to structure and determine them.
There seems to be no easy solution for this very bad intellectual situation.
Famously, critically examining presuppositions has always played a major role in the progress of philosophy.
Socrates’ method of eliciting them and critically examining them is foundational for philosophy itself.
The unexamined false presuppositions that have crept into contemporary philosophy are not related to the content of the inquiry, but to the philosophical method that, seemingly, has to be used.
It is relatively easy to identify someone’s unexamined presuppositions regarding liberalism, dualism, or materialism.
It is far more difficult to identify unexamined presuppositions that have permeated the very methods and ways in which we philosophize.
These unexamined presuppositions work in the dark background of inquiry, yet systematically fix the form and content of philosophical inquiry.
Combined with powerful academic institutional mechanisms and structures (such as course structures, qualification standards, and tenure tracks) these unexamined false presuppositions are silently translated into norms that pre-structure professional academic philosophy.
Sadly, the hyper-disciplining of professional academic philosophers’ minds has become fully institutionalized in the contemporary (neoliberalized) academy.
A degree of institutionalization is not necessarily bad, and indeed can even be very good, where an institution is itself designed to further mutual aid and human kindness, and respect human dignity.
But institutional norms and guidelines that mirror coercive state structures are dysfunctional and actively hamper critical inquiry.
Contemporary professional academic philosophy in Scott Soames’ “golden age of philosophy” has arrived at this very point—DOA, dead on arrival—for reasons that have been laid out in this essay.
Now, why should we regard the core package of professional philosophical bullshit as deeply corrosive as regards authentic (philosophical) truth or insight?
It seems to me that “hyper-disciplining” institutionalization has fully acquired the power and the means to deflect and prevent philosophers from actually searching for genuine insight.
If institutional norms, higher-order truths, trendy topics, apparent rigor, tenure, argumentative coercion, and Scholasticism/factory brands become more important than philosophical activity geared towards Enlightenment, then we are squarely in the domain of the Sophists, the intellectual enemies of Socrates and Plato.
Harry Frankfurt defined bullshitting as acting with an attitude that has a deep disregard for the truth.
Despite paying lip-service to the free-thinking search for truth, professionalism and academicism in philosophy have an actual deep disregard for the truth as well.
This disregard takes a different form than the carelessness or the glibness of the con man: he is obviously up to something – a fact suspected by his audience.
However, no one suspects from the demeanor of the professional academic philosopher that s/he is trying to get away with something.
Philosophy is touted as an ancient and established discipline.
No one expects Scholasticism/factory branding, sophism, or dogmatism to rule and motivate its proponents.
Indeed, many or perhaps even most professional academic philosophers are completely naïve or self-deceived about this.
But the “incentivizing” mechanisms and structures of qualification, publication, tenure, hyperspecialization and recognition have eroded much of the spirit with which classical and modern philosophy was undertaken – a spirit that was arguably far more anarcho-philosophical than many would want to admit.
Socrates, our philosophical Buddha or Jesus, after all, was nothing more and nothing less than a super-intelligent, highly unorthodox, unemployed bum with “mental health issues.”
Philosophy (and science as well) desperately needs to liberate itself from its own unexamined false presuppositions and the institutional and methodological structures that powerfully reinforce these presuppositions.
To insist on achieving philosophical profundity that strictly conforms to coercive institutional norms makes essentially the same mistake that the Soviet state-planners made in the 1920s: since the Soviet Union was producing artistic activity, therefore every Soviet work of art was an officially designated “masterpiece of people’s art.”
In this case, just as with contemporary professional academic philosophy, the source of the ambition is easy to spot, but the means of achieving it is equally radically misplaced.
 My sincere thanks to Z for helpful editing, additions and “edgification.”
[i] See Krauss’s discussion here: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTedvV6oZjo]
[ii] See for some further clarification this anarcho-philosophical dialogue: [http://againstprofphil.org/philosophical-works-philosophical-theories-real-philosophy-and-real-philosophy/]
[iii] See Scott Soames’ essay “Philosophy’s True Home,” published in The Stone, 7 March 2016. The essay can be found here: [http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/philosophys-true-home/?_r=0] http://againstprofphil.org/between-familiarity-and-bewilderment-towards-a-theory-of-incoherent-philosophical-bullshit/
[iv] See: [http://againstprofphil.org/on-playing-the-mental-health-issues-card-in-the-crispin-sartwell-debate/]
[v] See: [http://againstprofphil.org/an-insiders-view-of-the-brazilian-philosophical-world-or-how-to-build-a-really-totalitarian-system/]
[vi] The 1929 Vienna Circle Manifesto can be found here: [http://neurath.umcs.lublin.pl/manifest.pdf]
[vii] To be fair, analytic philosophy has in recent decades branched out in a number of very interesting fields: aesthetics, environmental ethics, feminism and religion. Moreover, there are fruitful cross-overs between analytic and continental philosophy, analytic philosophy and pragmatism, and analytic theorists have shown an increasing interest in figures like Hegel, Derrida and Deleuze.
[viii] Paradoxically, I think that while analytic philosophy seems largely to present itself as ahistorical and “current,” it is deeply influenced by figures like Descartes, Kant and Hume, but this influence is only recognized in a form of lip service to their contributions. Furthermore, analytic philosophy boasts itself already a history of more than a century. This history is still heavily present in the way current analytic philosophy is practiced.
[ix] For example: Gaston Bachelard, Essai sur Connaissance Approchee (1928), Alain Badiou, The Concept of Model (1968), Georges Canguilhem, Etudes de histoire et de philosophie des sciences (1983), Hans Vaihinger, Die Philosophie des Als Ob (1911)
[x] Gary Gutting (ed.) Science and Continental Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) p. 2
[xi] Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1981) p. 16-39
[xii] The paper “What Do Philosophers Believe?” can be found here: [http://philpapers.org/archive/BOUWDP]
[xiii] See my earlier essay on APP in this series “Between Familiarity and Bewilderment”: [http://againstprofphil.org/between-familiarity-and-bewilderment-towards-a-theory-of-incoherent-philosophical-bullshit/]
[xiv] See my earlier essay on APP “The Pre-structured Professional – Professional Vocabularies in Action”: [http://againstprofphil.org/the-pre-structured-professional-vocabularies-in-action/]
[xv] In the chapter “Against Philosophy” earlier published in Dreams of A Final Theory’(1994) The chapter can be found here: [http://www.pitt.edu/~mem208/courses/phph_s15/documents/weinberg_against_philosophy.pdf]
[xvi] Krauss made this point explicitly in a conversation with Daniel Dennett hosted by the University of Ghent (Belgium) The debate can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tH3AnYyAI8]
[xvii] A report from The Telegraph on Hawking’s statement can be found here: [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/8520033/Stephen-Hawking-tells-Google-philosophy-is-dead.html]
[xviii] Notably Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, and Michael Walzer
[xix] See: Charles Taylor, Cross-Purposes: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate, in: Nancy Rosenblum (ed.) Liberalism and the Moral Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989)
[xx] See: Taylor, Cross-Purposes, 1989
[xxi] John Rawls, A Theory Of Justice section 76 (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971, 3rd edn. 1999)
[xxii] Elizabeth Anderson, “What is the Point of Equality?,” in: Ethics 109 (The University of Chicago Press 1999) p. 308-309
[xxiii] See: [http://againstprofphil.org/hyper-disciplined-minds-the-professionalization-of-philosophy-and-the-death-of-dissent/]
[xxiv] See: Samuel Wheeler, “Specialization and the Future of Analytic Philosophy.” The article can be found here: [https://www.academia.edu/4169040/Specialization_and_the_Future_of_Analytic_Philosophy]
[xxv] In Karl Poppers The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
[xxvi] Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, chapter 8 “On the Status of Science and of Metaphysics” and chapter 11 “The Demarcation Between Science and Metaphysics” (London: Routledge, 2002)
[xxvii] For example in his book Making It Explicit (1998)
[xxviii] Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, chapter 12 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013)
[xxix] Dennett’s own example, which can be found here: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjsC53RGO4Q]
[xxx] Heidi Maibom, “In Defence of (Model) Theory Theory,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 16, No. 6–8, 2009, p. 366
[xxxi] Dennett’s paper “Higher-Order Truths About Chmess” can be found here: [https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/chmess.pdf]
[xxxii] Among others Sydney Shoemaker, Derek Parfit, with Bernard Williams and Eric Olson criticizing this line of argumentation
[xxxiii] Derek Parfit, Reasons & Persons (Oxford: Oxford Univery Press, 1983) p. 255
[xxxiv] For the doubting reader: These are actual thought experiments found in philosophical literature.
[xxxv] Nagel’s paper “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness” can be found here: [http://www.oswego.edu/~delancey/100_DIR/Nagel.BBUC.pdf]
[xxxvi] See this anarcho-philosophical dialogue for an exposition on this theme [http://againstprofphil.org/from-professional-vocabularies-and-the-ethics-of-terminology-to-presentational-polymorphism-a-conversation-about-otto-paanss-the-pre-structured-professional/ ]
[xxxvii] See the article discussing this topic on The Nation: [http://www.thenation.com/article/adventures-neurohumanities/]
[xxxviii] G.W.F. Hegel, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline, part: Science of Logic, § 7, (ed.)Klaus Brinkmann and Donald A. Dahlstrom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)