James Ladyman on philosophy that’s not for the masses

In “Philosophy That’s Not for the Masses,” James Ladyman argues that professional philosophers are under no obligation to make their ideas accessible to the public. Philosophers of science and logic, he writes, may get on quite well writing for and speaking with each other, they really should specialize in order to make the questions they ask manageable, but they needn’t feel the compulsion to be science writers or popularizers to boot. Ladyman seems to think that there is some inherent necessity in all this, but what he fails to recognize is

  1. that the university breeds professionals;
  2. that the kind of philosophy that professionals practice has no bearing on how they (or how we live); and
  3. that certain “sexy” areas of study (philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, metaphysics) have not only outpaced but also vanquished philosophy of life.

I’m not opposed to people studying logic or science. My truck is not with theory per se. I’m opposed to the general orientation–the moral majority, the general consensus, the self-evident pseudo-scientific turn–of professional philosophy. We are living through a period of great uncertainty, and our spiritual needs couldn’t be greater. Yet where is philosophy when we need it?

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