Advanced Search

To escape all the dishonesty and inauthentic living in the world today, are you

To escape all the dishonesty and inauthentic living in the world today, are you aware of any so called philosophers' retreats where anyone online interested in the subject get together for several days or weeks at the countryside or maybe a lodge in the woods?

Not as such, though perhaps not quite for the reason you might think.

The discipline of philosophy isn't a cure for "inauthentic living." In my experience, at least, philosophers are no more and no less prone to being "inauthentic" than anyone else. Philosopher often have pretty good BS detectors, but being good at spotting BS and living "authentically" are probably only loosely correlated.

Philosophers who set their minds to it could no doubt offer up some subtle and interesting reflections on what counts as leading an authentic life. But being articulate about it and being good at doing it are very different skills. Compare: it's one thing to be a good art critic. It's another thing to be a good artist.

That said, some people who follow a particular "philosophy" may see the attempt to live authentically as closely tied to following that philosophy. This might be true, for example, of committed, thoughtful Buddhists (among others.) Such people may, on average, be more authentic than the average professional philosopher (who isn't, by the way, especially inauthentic, near as I can tell), but for all that, they aren't better philosophers, in my experience. It's entirely possible to lead an open, honest life while having no talent for philosophy. And it's entirely possible to be a talented philosopher while leading a mess of a life.

Not as such, though perhaps not quite for the reason you might think. The discipline of philosophy isn't a cure for "inauthentic living." In my experience, at least, philosophers are no more and no less prone to being "inauthentic" than anyone else. Philosopher often have pretty good BS detectors, but being good at spotting BS and living "authentically" are probably only loosely correlated. Philosophers who set their minds to it could no doubt offer up some subtle and interesting reflections on what counts as leading an authentic life. But being articulate about it and being good at doing it are very different skills. Compare: it's one thing to be a good art critic. It's another thing to be a good artist. That said, some people who follow a particular "philosophy" may see the attempt to live authentically as closely tied to following that philosophy. This might be true, for example, of committed, thoughtful Buddhists (among others.) Such people may, on average, be more authentic than the average...

I want to get rich. Can studying philosophy help with my goal?

I want to get rich. Can studying philosophy help with my goal?

Should philosophers be able to speak as well as they write? For most people,

Should philosophers be able to speak as well as they write? For most people, speech is a more common form of communication in day to day life than the printed text so it bothers me whenever I watch online philosophy talks or even live philosophy lectures just how boring many philosophers deliver their material. There are exceptions of course (John Searle comes to mind) but is this because philosophers think being charismatic or funny somehow detracts from the material itself?

"Should" is a bit strong here. Some people have a talent for public speaking; some don't. My unscientific canvassing of my own experience suggests that there's more or less no correlation between how good a philosopher someone is and how good they are at public speaking.

"Should" is a bit strong here. Some people have a talent for public speaking; some don't. My unscientific canvassing of my own experience suggests that there's more or less no correlation between how good a philosopher someone is and how good they are at public speaking.

Do you think that more philosophy departments in the future will either continue

Do you think that more philosophy departments in the future will either continue to have their budgets cut or be completely eliminated at both public and private institutions? If so, is this more because of administrative politics or because philosophers are unpersuasive in their arguments? Isn't this pressure a good thing, since forcing philosophers to justify the existence of their field is something philosophers ought already to be able to do ever since Socrates (who seemed to be a bad pro se lawyer)?

When it comes to what will happen, I'll have to plead lack of a crystal ball. I can't even say what might happen. I'm not sure what sort of administrative politics you have in mind, but at least at my institution, I haven't noticed that administrators have any special animus against philosophy. I suppose at some institutions, someone might argue (whether soundly or not is another matter) that studying philosophy leads to poor employment prospects, or that in general, philosophy is in some way or another "impractical"; more on that in a moment. As for philosophers being unpersuasive in their arguments, I gravely doubt that most administrators either have an opinion or are qualified to. (That's not a criticism of administrators. It's just the usual situation for people outside a discipline; they tend not to be familiar with its workings.)

Would it be a good thing to force philosophers to justify the existence of their field? Only if it would be an equally good thing for people in other disciplines to do the same, and only if the acceptable sorts of "justifications" didn't simply reduce to some notion of "practicality" or to financial bottom lines. To think that those sorts of justifications are the only good ones is to succumb to a horrid confusion that shows the need for philosophers rather than condemns their discipline.

What I sense (perhaps mistakenly) behind your question is that idea that philosophers never solve the problems they set themselves, and so their discipline is hopeless. That, however, strikes me as a philosophical confusion.

Let me offer an analogy. I think it would be a deep shame if literature departments disappeared. This is too short a post for a disquisition on the value of studying literature, but that value isn't a matter of practicality nor is it a matter of coming to definitive conclusions. There will never be a "definitive" interpretation of Hamlet or Middlemarch or any other work of literature. There will always be disagreements, and there will always be multiple perspectives that we can take on these works. Being aware of this makes our understanding richer, not poorer. And something similar goes for philosophy.

I'm not big on definitions of philosophy, but I have a soft spot for Wilfrid Sellars' idea that the aim of philosophy "is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term." Philosophy tries to make as much sense of the world as we can manage to make. There's more than one way to do that, there are different ways to think about what matters most, and as we learn more about the world form other sources, we'll need to keep revisiting the questions philosophy asks afresh. Woe betide the world if we end up with a University -- or a citizenry -- that doesn't think this is worth trying to do.

When it comes to what will happen, I'll have to plead lack of a crystal ball. I can't even say what might happen. I'm not sure what sort of administrative politics you have in mind, but at least at my institution, I haven't noticed that administrators have any special animus against philosophy. I suppose at some institutions, someone might argue (whether soundly or not is another matter) that studying philosophy leads to poor employment prospects, or that in general, philosophy is in some way or another "impractical"; more on that in a moment. As for philosophers being unpersuasive in their arguments, I gravely doubt that most administrators either have an opinion or are qualified to. (That's not a criticism of administrators. It's just the usual situation for people outside a discipline; they tend not to be familiar with its workings.) Would it be a good thing to force philosophers to justify the existence of their field? Only if it would be an equally good thing for people in other disciplines...

Consider the following scenario: I am very good at doing analytic philosophy

Consider the following scenario: I am very good at doing analytic philosophy (though I am not a genius by any means), specially analytic metaphysics, but not limited to that field. I am well acquainted with the literature on the subject, I have an excellent grasp of the arguments and am pretty good at suggesting objections or proposing new arguments (or variations of old ones). Also, I have a pretty good command of the relevant technical material, that is, classical logic, modal logic, mereology and set theory, etc. Suppose I am capable of original and rigorous work. Suppose I profoundly dislike being taught in a university but have a fine time debating with (competent) professors, visiting lecturers and students (outside of the lectures), who, if asked, will acknowledge my philosophical ability. However, since I am not fond of the academy (as a student), I do not have any degrees. Suppose I am still young so I haven't published anything but I have plenty of ideas which, with a little work, might make...

I think that Allen gives some good practical advice and that Eric discusses well some important bureaucratic/administrative challenges that you would face even if the strategy that Allen lays out went swimmingly. My answer, however, builds on a point that Oliver made.

First, I agree with Oliver that earning degrees in philosophy might be useful for reasons that your question does not address. Reflecting on--and growing from--one's experience as a student at various levels is extremely important for a successful academic career, and so your lack of that experience constitutes another significant challenge. This long process of education also serves to test your skills and passions (Are you really as good as philosophy as you think? Is your passion deep-seated and strong enough?) and to hone them -- I would think even a philosophical genius would grow significantly by working through high-quality degree programs.

Second, I have a practical suggestion. You describe yourself as young but located in a country where the philosophy degree programs do not fit your passion for analytic philosophy. Would it be possible for you to locate and enroll in high-quality analytic programs in another country? If so, this might be a way to pursue your dreams without having to fight all the challenges that my colleagues have discussed. Also, reflecting on to what extent you flourish or fail to flourish in these new academic communities would help you to know whether or not your description of yourself as "not fond of the academy" is a parochial one based on your experiences with local institutions.

One quick note on credentials. We rely on them because they are, in general, pretty reliable and they save an enormous amount of time. This bears on your question. Suppose you applied for a beginning-level assistant professor job at my institution, having no degree. I would need to decide if it was worth the time to investigate whether you have the skills and knowledge needed, and a good deal of past experience with people from outside the academy who think of themselves as philosophers would make it a poor bet. You would probably get sorted very quickly to the "Reject" file in the triage process. That might be a mistake. But academics, like most everyone else, are busy people, and given the (literally) hundreds of applications that a job ad might generate, we have no serious choice but to rely on heuristics of this sort. We'd also wonder -- if we got around to it -- whether anyone who claims to be so averse to the academy as a student is likely to do well there as a faculty member. That said, it...

When does one "become" a philosopher?

When does one "become" a philosopher?

Right after the secret handshake...

More seriously, there's no single answer, and no clear one in any case. Does someone who has a BA in philosophy count as a philosopher? How about someone who has no formal education in philosophy, but through lots of reading and informal conversation has gotten good at the sorts of things philosophers do?

Sufficient conditions are not so hard to come by. Someone who regularly publishes in recongnized philosophy journals would count. So would anyone who regularly teaches bread-and-butter philosophy courses in a university philosophy department. But not all philosophers publish, and not all teach.

Necessary conditions aren't hard to come by either. Someone who had poor verbal skills and neither has nor ever had any talent for thinking analytically wouldn't count as a philosopher. But there are many linguistically gifted analytically-skilled thinkers who aren't philosophers. (An excellent lawyer, for example.)

There are some useful generalizations, of course. Philosophers typically have studied philosophy in university. In any case, they generally have a wide acquaintance with and a good understanding of philosophical texts and ideas. They are interested in certain sorts of questions, though there's a fair range of possible interests and aversions here. (One philosopher might be fascinated by questions about the foundations of morality but have no taste for theory of knowledge; another might have more or less the opposite preferences.)

The most promising answer may seem like a cheat at first: you become a philosopher when you've reached the point where philosophers would agree that you are a philosopher. In one way, this begs the question: it assumes without giving a deeper story that there are already some people who count as philosophers, and it bootstraps from there. But there's no cure for that; "philosopher" isn't a natural kind, marked out by some reasonably tight set of defining characteristics. There are, however, many paradigm examples. (All members of this panel, for instance, are philosophers by any reasonable accounting.) And there are reasonably well-defined formal and informal practices, networks, associations and the like that philosophers recognize and that recognize philosophers, as it were. (Publishing in certain journals, belonging to certain associations, having certain educational backgrounds, working on certain problems...) On the one hand, all this is still fuzzy around the edges. (For example: there are academics who have all their training outside of philosophy and aren't employed by philosophy departments, but who have made valuable contributions to the field. Are they philosophers or not? There's no sharp answer.) But on the other hand, there are people who have an amateur and sometimes crankish interest in philosophy and who think of themselves as philosophers. Most of the people who count as philosophers by all reasonable measures would disagree. Surely that should carry some weight!

The suggestion here is hardly original, and would work in a good many other cases: mathematician, historian, chocolatier, chef, musician... I might be able to knock together a few pieces of wood to make a bookcase. The guy who's rebuilding my porch, however, wouldn't count me as a carpenter, and since he clearly is a carpenter, his opinion is worth a lot more than mine.

So when do you become a philosopher? Not at any one moment, but gradually, as you reach the point where philosophers count you as one of their own.

Right after the secret handshake... More seriously, there's no single answer, and no clear one in any case. Does someone who has a BA in philosophy count as a philosopher? How about someone who has no formal education in philosophy, but through lots of reading and informal conversation has gotten good at the sorts of things philosophers do? Sufficient conditions are not so hard to come by. Someone who regularly publishes in recongnized philosophy journals would count. So would anyone who regularly teaches bread-and-butter philosophy courses in a university philosophy department. But not all philosophers publish, and not all teach. Necessary conditions aren't hard to come by either. Someone who had poor verbal skills and neither has nor ever had any talent for thinking analytically wouldn't count as a philosopher. But there are many linguistically gifted analytically-skilled thinkers who aren't philosophers. (An excellent lawyer, for example.) There are some useful generalizations, of course...

When did secular philosophy departments, as opposed to theology

When did secular philosophy departments, as opposed to theology faculties, first appear in universities?

I don't know (and my guess is that my co-panelists don't either.) That, I'm assuming is why it's taken so long for anyone to respond even with such a useless answer. But in defense of myself and my colleagues, most people who belong to a profession, I'd guess, have a relatively scant knowledge of the institutional history of the profession. For example: most physicists probably don't know when or where the first university physics department was established, most dentists probably don't know where the first dental school was, most insurance brokers probably don't know what the first insurance company was, and so on.

I don't know (and my guess is that my co-panelists don't either.) That, I'm assuming is why it's taken so long for anyone to respond even with such a useless answer. But in defense of myself and my colleagues, most people who belong to a profession, I'd guess, have a relatively scant knowledge of the institutional history of the profession. For example: most physicists probably don't know when or where the first university physics department was established, most dentists probably don't know where the first dental school was, most insurance brokers probably don't know what the first insurance company was, and so on.

Good morning,

Good morning, As a foreign PhD student in Philosophy, I need some technical hints about how to choose an Anglo-American magazine to send an article in analytic philosophy. First, I’d like to know, is the Impact Factor system as important in philosophic, as in scientific research? If so, where can I find evaluations about journals? Apart from that, I can imagine there are thematic criteria to choose a magazine: of course, you won’t send a paper in logic to a magazine that only publishes papers in ethics. That’s obvious. But is there anything else I should consider? Thank you to anybody who will reply. Stefano - Italy

Here are some good analytic/Anglo-American journals, in no particular order. (And the fact that some journal isn't on the list doesn't mean it's not good; this is off the top of my head). Mind Journal of Philosophy Analysis Nous Synthese British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophical Review Philosophical Studies Philosophical Quarterly Utilitas Philosophy and Public Affairs Ethics I know little or nothing about the Impact Factor system. But have a look at some of these journals and see what might fit your needs. Needless to say, some are quite difficult to get into. But they're a fair sample, I think, of journals that analytic philosophers tend to read.

Is it emotionally difficult to be a professional philosopher? Sometimes

Is it emotionally difficult to be a professional philosopher? Sometimes philosophical questions and subject matter seem so disturbing and intense, that it must surely be taxing psychologically. Does non-philosophical subject matter become pale and boring in comparison? Are professional philosophers socially isolated because of boredom with the non-philosophical, concomitant with the disturbing nature of the philosophical (so that it may not be acceptable in non-philosophical company)? Thanks.

I'd like to add a comment to Allen Stairs' excellent answer: it is worth distinguishing between philosophers who write about 'angst', and the experience of angst. In existentialism, for example, the experience of anxiety is often considered to be philosophically interesting (the fact that anxiety is experienced shows something, or even that anxiety itself is a form of showing) but not yet philosophy. Moreover, the philosopher (like everyone else) must spend most of the time in a state of everydayness, false consciousness or whatever, enjoying a Gauloise and an espresso in a cafe in the sun -- or if gloomy, for perfectly ordinary reasons.

I'll have to admit that most of the Sturm und Drang in my life hasn't got a lot to do with what I think about professionally. Questions like "do quantum states support measurement counteractuals?" or "does indeterminism serve any real function in Professor X's account of libertarian free will?" or "is there an acceptable notion of objective probability that explains how probabilities can be action-guiding?" aren't exactly the stuff from which high monthly psychoanalysts' bills are made. All of those questions are very interesting (No. Really!) but they aren't high on the angstometer. And I have a feeling that if you thumbed through the typical philosophy journal, you'd find much the same for much of what you saw. This isn't a criticism of my chosen profession and first intellectual love. Many of the questions that philosophers wrestle with are deeply fascinating if you have the taste for them, but they often abstract, often not very closely connected with the things in the world that really worry...