Ecstatic Rationalism

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

I have recently been informed that I am “outside of the sociology” of academic philosophy. (The person who said this of me is someone I like and admire, and whose presence on the scene I value, very much.) I think this means, for one thing, that I do not display a number of the shibboleths that are commonly used by members of the clan to identify other members, like Vikings with their brooches. Sometimes this is because I refuse to display them, and sometimes this is because I am unaware that they exist.

One of the most common shibboleths, of which I have been aware since grad school, is that one must ostentatiously grumble about all those times when strangers, for example seat neighbors on airplanes, innocently ask “what [your] philosophy is”. One is supposed to complain to fellow clan members that hoi polloi do not even know that a true philosopher does not “have a philosophy”, all while delicately avoiding use of a term like “hoi polloi” that might make explicit the class-based nature of this disdain.

Here’s the thing though: I do have a philosophy, and I like being asked what it is. So this is two strikes against me in my already contested petition for residence within the sociology of philosophy (a residence I had too casually assumed permanent when I got my Ph.D. and went out into the world and just kept doing philosophy). But when I explain what my philosophy is, rather than simply acknowledging that I have one, that’s when I really risk being taken for an outsider. Here we are not talking about a mere shibboleth or vocational tic, but about which of the historical legacies of philosophy we wish to see carried over into the future.

More here.