Philosophers and philosophers

In thirty-odd years’ study of the arcane field of Philosophy, I have not learned very much; which perhaps means that I am doing it right.

Here is one thing I have definitely learned:

In the field of Philosophy, there are two kinds of people: Philosophers and Academic Philosophers. All the actual philosophies are created by the first group, but it is the second group that gets tenure.

Philosophers think very hard about the meaning of life, the nature of knowledge, and things like that, and write about it for the public.

Academic Philosophers, by tradition, are angry old men with beards and elbow patches who write incomprehensible gobbledygook at each other because they just like arguing that much.

In these enlightened times, however, Academic Philosophy has risen above its ignoble past and taken on a whole new look. For nowadays, most of the Academic Philosophers are clean-shaven.



  1. Andrew Parrish says

    Beards and elbow patches have also cross-pollinated somewhat. Although a true philosopher, traditionally, has need of patches on more than just the elbows of his clothes. Socrates, if the busts be true, had a magnificent, disgusting grad student beard. Q.E.D.

    There are philosophers who happen to be found in academies; originally the whole point of an academy was to take up Socrates’ joke-taunt in the Apology that philosophers ought to be housed and fed for free so they could focus on thinking and not digging through dumpsters for bagels. Unfortunately as of this morning there’s only about three of them. Sir Roger Scruton, one of the only original thinkers of the new century, has left – Cambridge, I believe – in a blaze of righteous, independently wealthy indignation, so there’s probably only two.

  2. I never had the brains for philosophy, so I defer to your judgment.

    There are still plenty of men (I was going to write ‘people,’ but caught myself in time) who still wear mutton-chop whiskers. Will you be tackling that problem next?

  3. I was reading an essay by an academic philosopher who at least had the grace to admit that “love of wisdom” or not, no professor of philosophy would recommend another as “wise.”

  4. Academic philosophers also channel potential philosophers into (and out of) their programs to make sure none of them become Philosophers who upset their precious orthodoxy.

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