Future, Present, & Past:
Speculative~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
at least it's not hemlock
I know very well all the anti-academic arguments about philosophy--all the stuff about how turning it into a "subject" rather than a way of life has more or less eviscerated it of any depth. I half-agree with this caricature myself sometimes, and I've made more than one complaint in the same vein, not just re. philosophy but about the teaching of the humanities in general. To loosen the Analytic stranglehold on philosophy departments even a little, it pretty much took all the excesses the post-structuralism parties in the English departments down the hall, to show that there was another, funner, way. (And that was quite a high price to pay, and of course was just another version of what was wrong with university humanities programs.)
But the fact is, that reading phenomenology or the scholastics or neoplatonism is hard. One does often need a teacher, and schools are still the most likely place to find one. So although I know no one personally who goes there, and can't work myself up to indignation, I am nonetheless shaking my head over the announced intention of Middlesex University to close its acclaimed philosophy program. This is one of the most successful and well-known philosophy centers in Europe, in terms of crossing the stupid no-man's-land between the much-abused "Analytic" and "Continental" labels, and is certainly that for which the University itself is best-known. But--this just in--philosophy apparently doesn't make big money, you know? As I say, I don't have any personal stakes in this except that thinkers I respect are signing the petition (which you can access via the link above) to reverse the decision; and I am no big fan of the "university system" in any case. It generates jargon, mutual-admiration societies, and the churning out of endless paper in pursuit of tenure. Yes, all that and more. Sure. But the venal rationale put forward to justify the closure is just another instance of what's been wrong with that system from the get-go. I might even say, let it go, man, let it go; but still, you gotta sigh when the explanation is that philosophy makes no "measurable contribution." The more things change, the more they stay the same.