Dewey…the most important philosopher of the twentieth century

At the Leiter blog there was an interesting thread (here) concerning Philip Kitcher’s recent essay, “Philosophy Inside Out” (here). Given the current state of support for philosophy (or lack thereof) within the academy, it was not surprising that many of the comments were in support of Kitcher’s basic claim that philosophy ought to reconsider or reflect upon its core mission, although not everyone agreed with how such a reconsideration would look in practice, or what has put philosophy into the state it is in.

Kitcher’s basic argument stems from his reading of Dewey, who he ‘take[s] to be the most important philosopher of the twentieth century.’ In particular, Kitcher analogizes much of the “core” work that is most highly valued in philosophy today, by which Kitcher means epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind, with placing the highest musical value upon those who can perform an ‘ornamented Quadruple Temolo 41 with an extra trill.’ In short, much of the core work in philosophy Kitcher claims is increasingly devoted to making finer and finer distinctions, the relevance of which is apparent to an ever-dwindling number of fellow neo-scholastics (referring here to Ladyman and Ross’s critique of contemporary analytic metaphysics, as discussed here). The overall message: it’s no wonder philosophy programs are at risk. It’s time to take stock of what we philosophers are doing and whether it is worth doing.

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