februarie 02, 2011

argumentative by training

It would be tempting at this point to go beyond the purist response that, one way or another, even the most apparently abstruse philosophical reflections may eventually enter and affect public consciousness (and in the past often have done so). We could play the bureaucratic game and start talking about the more direct contribution philosophers have made and continue to make as ‘public intellectuals’, both in Britain and abroad, affecting public policy and the climate of public debate generally. Historically, however, the record of philosophers as ‘public intellectuals’ has not been a happy one, as a quick survey of the history of philosophy might show, from the days of Plato and Aristotle in antiquity to at least some of the public interventions of the likes of Heidegger, Sartre and Russell nearer to our own time. For whatever reason, historically there seems to have been no clear correlation between philosophic wisdom and practical wisdom, nor does philosophy in itself afford any reliable credentials for entry into public debate.

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