why still philosophy? p. II

in october, i came on here and acted all tough about staying with/in philosophy. now that it’s january, i start to mentally prepare myself for another year i didn’t land a tenure track job, another year of contingency, another year wondering where the whisky money’s going to come from next semester. so i’m spending a lot of time reflecting on the pragmatics of staying with/in philosophy, rather than the philosophy of staying with/in philosophy (so to speak).

i’m thinking a lot about all of those folks in the generations of philosophers who came before us, who found a home for themselves in other departments, in other disciplines: in political science, in rhetoric, in women’s studies, in comparative literature, in ethnic studies. i’m thinking about philosophers who left to use their voices in other venues, who left to be writers, or who left to work in law or politics or art.

and i’m thinking about everyone who’s just simply not here anymore.

i have no pretensions that philosophy is the only place one can critique, reflect on, analyse, and question our cultural moment and the structures of thinking, discourses and institutions that define it. but i’m afflicted by a stubborn insistence that philosophy will have us. as it becomes clearer that, like so many of my forebears, philosophy is just not that into me, i find myself wondering what it feels like to leave, what thinking goes into leaving, what happens beyond the contingency – “these folks would actually offer me a job, so i took it.”

is it possible to to make a career in philosophy as a middle finger to the discipline that couldn’t find a place and wouldn’t make a place for our friends and forebears who had to leave? is it wise?

3 thoughts on “why still philosophy? p. II

  1. aufheben

    the questions that you pose here – “is it possible to to make a career in philosophy as a middle finger to the discipline that couldn’t find a place and wouldn’t make a place for our friends and forebears who had to leave? is it wise?” – are staggering in how they cut to the heart of the issue and in their difficulty in answering. I have nothing.

    except this recent post, which makes me think that the work of this blog and the folks associated with it are the only thing that could save “philosophy” – if only by showing that it is already something other than it is:

    Can non-Europeans think? by Hamid Dabashi.

  2. herreticat

    I really appreciate this post, and I especially like the distinction you make between the pragmatics of staying with/in philosophy versus the philosophy of staying with/in philosophy. I think reading this helped me realize that I have felt overwhelmed by the “pragmatics” of it all for so long that sometimes it is difficult for me to have much patience for the “philosophy” of it all… and THAT made me have some rather uncomfortable realizations about just how much my cynicism about philosophy has shaped my own work. It is hard to keep going and thinking and dreaming when you don’t really have a whole lot of faith that doing such a thing is going to pay the bills (whisky and otherwise!) and also when you’ve seen such ugly and painful gatekeeping and policing of the discipline. Anyways, I apologize for this rather depressing comment in some ways, but it’s what is on my mind right now 🙂 The less depressing side is that I think you are also asking some really enlivening questions about making homes in other places and being part of this lineage of resistance and of just generally thinking otherwise (as the first commenter here points to in the article link).

  3. educated ice Post author

    thanks for your responses, aufheben & herreticat.

    it’s quite possible that i overstate the distinction between a pragmatics of staying with/in philosophy and a philosophy of staying with/in philosophy as a means of protection against the very sort of thing you describe here. it’s very difficult, for instance, to draft a paper on the question of pluralism in philosophy when one is acutely aware that one may no longer “be” a philosopher (in the professional sense) by the time one delivers it. on the other hand, being truly pluralistic (whatever that means) may only be served by treating being abandoned by professional philosophy as grace. but of course that would be a becoming-pluralistic of the very sort that even self-professed “pluralist” philosophy does not recognize, except in having won.

    that’s what gives me pause.

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