philosophy meta-forum

Rachel Williams: Why I Left Academic Philosophy

Gianni

10 day(s) ago

https://medium.com/@transphilosophr/why-i-left-academic-philosophy-dc0049ea4f3a

https://www.reddit.com/r/philosophy/comments/8apoy0/why_i_left_academic_philosophy/

Shake apart.

Gongsun

10 day(s) ago

Sounds like someone who couldn't make it, so concluded it's not them, it's the others or the system that sucks. Robert Hanna did a similar thing, professional philosophy sucks,.after he was exposed... different reasons but the same defensive mechanism

Ibn

10 day(s) ago

Sounds like someone who couldn't make it, so concluded it's not them, it's the others or the system that sucks. Robert Hanna did a similar thing, professional philosophy sucks,.after he was exposed... different reasons but the same defensive mechanism

Gongsun

Could be some truth to that, but then this reaction to her complaints could be a defense mechanism from someone invested in professional philosophy and so unable to see the real flaws she points out.

Theodor

10 day(s) ago

I swear I've seen this "metaethics lecture inside x protest outside" scenario described somewhere else...

Anyway, the article is spot on in one respect: academia is mostly a status game. You learn what the non-written rules are, form coalitions, climb to the top, etc. It doesn't make much sense if you look at it from a purely intellectual perspective.

Margaret

10 day(s) ago

About the lecture and the BLM march that supposedly coincided: "How could I justify this exuberance of abstraction when there were so many real-world problems that needed the minds of intelligent people?"

Of course we can sympathize with this to some extent. But if you really can't see any important connections between the "abstractions" that philosophers argue about and the "real- world problems" you're probably just not a very deep thinker. Or you need to just work a bit harder. If you can't see any connections in the work of others, just find some or make some. It's kind of dumb to think that "intelligent people" can help solve real-world problems without ultimately engaging with the abstractions. And it's a bit ironic in this case. An intelligent person probably should not feel too moved or inspired by a mass-media-generated movement that mainly results in mobs of low information people chanting and breaking things. If you approach the BLM stuff intelligently, but also honestly and without fear of the very high social costs of such an approach... well, then you're not so likely to think it's a screaming injustice that people with astronomical rates of violent crime and other misbehavior also tend to get hurt and killed by cops more often than others. (And if you were really trying to be "intelligent" about the issue you might also educate yourself and realize that, actually, it's white victims of police brutality who tend to go unremarked and ignored by the media, society, etc.)

Wendy

10 day(s) ago

Sounds like someone who couldn't make it, so concluded it's not them, it's the others or the system that sucks. Robert Hanna did a similar thing, professional philosophy sucks,.after he was exposed... different reasons but the same defensive mechanism

Gongsun

Could be some truth to that, but then this reaction to her complaints could be a defense mechanism from someone invested in professional philosophy and so unable to see the real flaws she points out.

Ibn

I'm puzzled. The defender is a professional philosopher, while the author of the article didn't succeed in becoming one. Without further information we should assume that the defender is more intelligent than the author. And couldn't we argue that the defender's position is correct because cereris paribus, smarter people are more likely to be right than dumb people?

Wendy

10 day(s) ago

I swear I've seen this "metaethics lecture inside x protest outside" scenario described somewhere else...

Anyway, the article is spot on in one respect: academia is mostly a status game. You learn what the non-written rules are, form coalitions, climb to the top, etc. It doesn't make much sense if you look at it from a purely intellectual perspective.

Theodor

Would you say Vittgenstone is a counterexample?

Young

10 day(s) ago

Yeah... There are bits of this that appeal to my existing sympathies, like the laments about bad style under the name of 'rigour', but they're spoilt by poor argumentation like this:

'The dense jargon and technical details make much of contemporary philosophy exhausting for the average person, who likely does not have the patience or time to slog through a maze of technical wizardry.'

The average person can't read technical papers in any discipline. The average person might enjoy works of popular philosophy, popular science, etc.

And in the end it's as unreflectively prejudiced as anyone in the academy--just in favour of politicised hot hopics instead of abstractly pure ones. Shame, that.

Ibn

10 day(s) ago

Anyway, the article is spot on in one respect: academia is mostly a status game. You learn what the non-written rules are, form coalitions, climb to the top, etc. It doesn't make much sense if you look at it from a purely intellectual perspective.

Theodor

Don't disagree with the diagnosis of academic life, but people with intellectual concerns can sometimes parasitize the status-game.

Basilides

10 day(s) ago

Sounds like someone who couldn't make it, so concluded it's not them, it's the others or the system that sucks. Robert Hanna did a similar thing, professional philosophy sucks,.after he was exposed... different reasons but the same defensive mechanism

Gongsun

Could be some truth to that, but then this reaction to her complaints could be a defense mechanism from someone invested in professional philosophy and so unable to see the real flaws she points out.

Ibn

I'm puzzled. The defender is a professional philosopher, while the author of the article didn't succeed in becoming one. Without further information we should assume that the defender is more intelligent than the author. And couldn't we argue that the defender's position is correct because cereris paribus, smarter people are more likely to be right than dumb people?

Wendy

Are you serious? It's absurd to assume that an arbitrary professional philosopher is smarter than an arbitrary person who failed to become a professional philosopher. There are so many obvious reasons why an equally smart person might fail. (My experience was that some of the smartest (or wisest) people failed to finish grad school, or failed to get jobs.) Also, there seems to be no general correlation between being smart and being right. Not outside of some very narrow areas, and specific types of mental ability. Philosophy is probably not one of those.

Gianni

10 day(s) ago

i don't have a big dog in this fight (i'm intellectually disabled) but you gotta sympathsize with this guy

https://unsplash.com/@elijahdhiett?utm_source=medium&utm_medium=referral

who probably didn't ... sign up for this when he agreed to the photo shoot

Saul

10 day(s) ago

Rachel Williams is a tranny who failed at being a man and a philosopher.

Bernhard

10 day(s) ago

Not to be mean or anything, but I don't understand why this has caught on. It's a hodgepodge of unrelated complaints that just sound like rationalizations. It's not philosophy's problem that you would rather be an activist than do philosophy.

Gustav

10 day(s) ago

Since I am not a person of world-historic significance, when I decide to stop doing one thing and start doing another, I do not produce a written explanation of my decision to present to the public. Authors of "quit lit" generally seem to overestimate their importance.

And yes, contemporary academe is a kind of pyramid scheme, but that's hardly unique to philosophy.

Philodemus

10 day(s) ago

Gongsun here: I certainly do not think I am "smarter" than her but I do think that succeeding in almost any field takes more than being smart: perserverance, tenacity, patience, ability to deal with rejection and criticism (as Rocky Balboa says, to approx. quote a "classic", it's not about how hard you can hit, but how many punches you can take), ability to learn from one's own and others' mistakes, a bit of fanaticism and workholism, luck, and so on...some talent, some intelligence, lots of sweat. I know a lot of people who are in some way probably smarter than me, but just did not have in them to do this kind of job. They prefer 9-5 office work with discrete, concrete tasks, where they work with people, organize, and so on. In any case, I can see many things "wrong" with professional philosophy (as I would probably with many other professional fields) but the kind of criticism leveled in the article seems either wrong/misguided or clearly stemming from unfulfilled desires of the author, rationalizing her failure in terms of the failure of someone/something else. Even when it is right, it is only accidentally so. For example, there is too much jargon in some philosophy but that's bad not because it makes it inaccessible to ordinary people but because it sometimes deceives both the author and the readers into thinking that they have progressed or said something when they really just manipulates words in a certain way. And so on.

T.

10 day(s) ago

She's [sic] talking up Criminal Lives Matter like it's an ethical imperative to support a chimp out by high-time-preference racial chauvinists. What a laugh!

Marilyn

9 day(s) ago

A whinge-fest of staggering proportions.

Dogen

9 day(s) ago

Philosophy's a mix, obviously. Some good, some bad, some great, some really really shitty. I mostly try to ignore the social aspects of the discipline...but all that stuff has just become so ostentatious. It's become difficult to ignore, I'd say. The cool cliques and good-old-person networks do seem to have an awful lot of influence. There are a lot of assholes, a lot of idiots, a lot of caricatures and self-parodies. There's a lot of one-up(s)manship. (Sometimes I think: if I have to sit through one more Q&A in which some pompous 20-something goes out of his way to smugly trip someone up on some peripheral point while parroting the mannerisms of his adviser...I'm going to flip my shit.)

Philosophy can look ridiculous to reasonable people even under idea conditions. Add in the embarrassing social stuff that afflicts the discipline--not to mention the shrieking leftists crazies who have taken over the APA--and...well...ideal conditions hardly prevail.

But just to pick out one very general point: if the author thinks that philosophy *per se* isn't important, then he absolutely shouldn't do it. If you think that it's of great importance to effect political change, and you're looking for a means to do that, then philosophy's not for you. You *should* be out chanting instead. If you devote a lot of your life to philosophy, it should be because you think that abstract inquiry of a philosophical kind is inherently valuable--not because you think it's instrumentally politically good. That's the death of philosophy. For your sake and for philosophy's, it'd be better to do something else.

Gianni

9 day(s) ago

> But just to pick out one very general point: if the author thinks that philosophy *per se* isn't important, then he absolutely shouldn't do it. If you think that it's of great importance to effect political change, and you're looking for a means to do that, then philosophy's not for you. You *should* be out chanting instead. If you devote a lot of your life to philosophy, it should be because you think that abstract inquiry of a philosophical kind is inherently valuable--not because you think it's instrumentally politically good. That's the death of philosophy. For your sake and for philosophy's, it'd be better to do something else.

But, in a slightly different vein, the same can be said to the social climbers within the disciplines. If you are approaching philosophy instrumentally, as a way to make a living or achieve higher social status, you should (not be out chanting but) go into business or something.

Andrew

9 day(s) ago

News flash: Philosophers are not smart. Mathematicians (many) are smart. Economists are smart. Philosophers, by in large, are not.

Sounds like someone who couldn't make it, so concluded it's not them, it's the others or the system that sucks. Robert Hanna did a similar thing, professional philosophy sucks,.after he was exposed... different reasons but the same defensive mechanism

Gongsun

Could be some truth to that, but then this reaction to her complaints could be a defense mechanism from someone invested in professional philosophy and so unable to see the real flaws she points out.

Ibn

I'm puzzled. The defender is a professional philosopher, while the author of the article didn't succeed in becoming one. Without further information we should assume that the defender is more intelligent than the author. And couldn't we argue that the defender's position is correct because cereris paribus, smarter people are more likely to be right than dumb people?

Wendy

Giuseppe

9 day(s) ago

I think there is a more charitable reading of Williams than “abstract is bad, concrete/practical is good.” Dennett’s chmess worry is that it is easy to create linguistic philosophical puzzles that, while interesting to solve in the way Sudoku puzzles are, will fail to connect up to other practical, or even broader intellectual concerns. I don’t think the argument “thinking about abstract/ foundational puzzles has been helpful to intellectual progress so anyone thinking abstractly about what they take to be foundational issues is helpful for intellectual progress.” I think many branches of philosophy could benefit from grappling with the issue of whether they are “useful” and/or whether their methodologies at conducive to learning deep stuff about the word versus making and then solving tough LSAT style problems.

Giuseppe

9 day(s) ago

Add: I don’t think the toy argument I constructed is a good one

Toby

9 day(s) ago

Andrew: do you really think you are qualified to make such judgments? Your use of "by in large" is not exactly inspiring confidence.

Giuseppe

9 day(s) ago

And I’ll go out on a limb and say: the lit on peer disagreement in epistemology is probably a good example of a chmess problem. There’s nothing interestingly general to say about what you should do if you disagree with an epistemic peer because the notion of an “epistemic peer” is a socially constructed predicate (think: same # of years of education, same educational level, etc.) that doesn’t refer to any stable/objective epistemological features of so-called peers.

Mikhail

9 day(s) ago

Hi Kirk!

Gianni

9 day(s) ago

... while interesting to solve in the way Sudoku puzzles are ...

Giuseppe

The thing is, most philosophical problems aren't even interesting. One shouldn't conflate intellectual interest with practical interest (here's a thought experiment: suppose a philosopher suddently acquired a billion dollars. What philosophical problems will survive this in the sense that he will continue to find it rewarding to reflect on it, and what problems won't?). I think you'd agree seeing as you yourself wrote: "There’s nothing interestingly general to say about what you should do if you disagree with an epistemic peer because the notion of an “epistemic peer”"

Giuseppe

9 day(s) ago

Well interesting is in the eye of the beholder. There are countless people much much smarter than me who both find peer disagreement extremely interesting to think about and that solving the issue as such will be a boon to our understanding of the world and maybe even help us figure out what’s going on in thorny real world cases. I’m of the the view that the problem as formulated is a fake one, but respect that in human history many people smarter and harder working than I have been seduced by fake problems from time to time.

Berit

9 day(s) ago

Too bad he dropped out. A good philosophical education might have helped him understand that he’s not a woman.

Giuseppe

9 day(s) ago

Dennett didn’t, it’s important to note say “philosophy is bullshit it’s all chmess” he said “beware of chmess.” Too many philosophers think that because the first claim is false they don’t have to heed the second.

Abu

9 day(s) ago

Too bad he dropped out. A good philosophical education might have helped him understand that he’s not a woman.

Berit

Sadly, today it's the "philosophers" who think that he is!

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