Against Public Philosophy

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

I have always demanded, wisely or not, my autonomous creative space away from my professional commitments. It may be that I do not in fact have a right to such a space. After all, when you become a diplomat, say, or a priest or a supreme court judge, it is generally understood that your are foregoing your freedom to be, at least publicly, more than a diplomat or a priest or a judge. But the professorial career doesn’t rise, I don’t think, to that level of vocational self-erasure, where one is no longer free to be more than what one is.

Nonetheless, it’s a damned hard path to carve out: a multi-layered life of different kinds of creative and intellectual output. Those who succeed in forging such a life are both courageous and innately talented– I’m thinking for example of Adrian Piper (artist and philosopher) or William Gass (novelist and philosopher). There are no doubt countless others who were squeezed out of the academy when they came to understand that staying in would likely require the sacrifice of certain other dimensions of their personhood.

Yet something is happening in the present moment that complicates matters a great deal. All of a sudden, there seems to be a general reversal of the valence of extramural activities undertaken by academic philosophers, from bad to good. There is a hitch however: these activities must be subsumable within the academy under the banner of “outreach”.

More here.

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