Friday, July 14, 2006

Lachs on Philosophers Committing Disciplinary Suicide

I'd heard this story before, but it took a mention by Jason (on the Leiter blog) for me to track it down. It comes from a longer letter by John Lachs, printed in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association.

The contempt philosophers feel for colleagues who do not share their values and techniques is nothing short of bizarre and has served to undermine the honor and integrity of the discipline. In serving on National Endowment for the Humanities committees, I noted that members of the panel from English and history and anthropology tended to support applicants from their fields. Philosophers, by contrast, couldn’t wait to light into their colleagues; they tore research proposals apart, presenting their authors as fools or as championing out-of-date, inferior ideas and methods. As a result, scholars from other fields garnered much of the money that would, under normal circumstances, have gone to philosophy. These gatekeepers to our profession thought their actions were justified by the imperative to maintain high standards; in fact, they often undertook to judge work they did not understand, and condemned styles of thought and topics of investigation simply because they had no sympathy with them.
The rest of the letter is worth reading (here).

I was glad, too, to see that it was a distinguished scholar of American Philosophy who made this point.

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