Monday, November 07, 2005

Descartes before the horse?

There are a couple of thoughts about Academic Philosophy that continue to fill me with amazement. The first is the rather obvious fact that Philosophy departments coexist with other departments and don’t attempt to analyse what is happening in other areas of the University (and indeed, right across the hall). This may be a problem of not seeing the wood for the trees, but this blindness I think has its root in the acceptance of the way we do further education, and the internalisation of the separation between disciplines in academics (including the physical routines of classes and offices and the logistics of students) . Surely that which is most immediately problematic to the Philosophers of today isn’t an empirical natural world, but an uneasy office-like existence of thoughtful beings subjecting themselves and their ‘intellectual children’ (if you like) to an omnipotent bureaucracy that shields itself from thought by setting thought’s dimensions and limits. Detailing this (perpetually, as I would have it) would not be Philosophers ‘causing trouble’, but just bothering to do Philosophy in the first place.

Secondly, the facts of publication are grotesque and absurd. Academics need to be publishing a certain amount of papers a year to be granted funding (i.e. to keep producing knowledge and not spiralling into an undergraduate-teaching nightmare where thoughts are only repeated and the academic has no chance to pursue the activity of Philosophy), but who is it that reads all these papers? It would take more time than there is available to academics to keep abreast of what other academics are doing. And so the cycle of endless, empty knowledge continues. Surely Philosophers, who are, I have found, acutely aware of the problem, need to care enough about knowledge not to produce it arbitrarily, holding it up in the air to the chime of a death-knell. If the truth isn’t worth fighting for in these instances, how can Descartes be taught with any exhortation to follow and internalise his inferences? If Descartes embarked on scepticism in a quest for the truth, then upon what absurd principle are we to follow him if we are not prepared to question the most obviously deceitful of our conceptual practices?


Blogger News is Good said...

Nice pun. I like horses.

University is seen by some as a business of money first and knowledge second. Sadly these some are often in some position of control.

Academia is not always envisioned as a valuable intellectual pursuit, but a job, a career, and not even a very comfortable one anymore. The percieved areas of importance are, sadly, the three 'r's: recruitment, retention, results. Academics are getting less and less job security as universities prioritise the funding unit (or student) over the staff.

I am not surprised that philosophy dept's don't wish to bite the hand that feeds them, they too are complicit in the vast and bloated structure of idiocy, and cannot extricate themselves. Unless we set up an Academy in a grove and etc. etc. etc. Sadly, our democracy appears to often rest on the opinions of idiots who want little more than chicken wings and ITV4 (have you seen the new Kojak? He's black!)

1:43 PM  

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