Unquestionable Orthodoxies of Philosophy

Philosophy, of all disciplines, should never embrace dogmas—it is supposed to be the quintessentially critical subject—and yet now we’re full to the brim with them. You cannot criticize or even question the current orthodoxies regarding race, gender, or sexual orientation within the institutional framework of academic philosophy. 


Those are the words of philosopher Dan Kaufman of Missouri State University (not to be confused with Dan Kaufman of the University of Colorado, Boulder), in an interview with Cliff Sosis (Coastal Carolina) at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? You may know Professor Kaufman from his philosophical work, his writing at the The Electric Agora, a site he co-founded, and, of course, his commenting here at Daily Nous (he is among the 5 most frequent commenters here).

The interview is interesting and at times even entertaining, and I recommend reading it.

To comment on one aspect of it, it is striking just how different Kaufman’s view of contemporary academia and contemporary culture is compared to mine.

The quote at the top about being unable to “question the current orthodoxies” in philosophy strikes me as plainly false. His prime example of this is the controversy over Rebecca Tuvel’s paper on transracialism. But note that the article was accepted for publication in the leading journal of its kind, and though there were some calls to retract it, these calls were resisted by the editors of the journal (and criticized by other visible voices in the profession), and the article remains in print. If Tuvel’s paper gives us an example of questioning current orthodoxy, it shows that it’s false that philosophers today are unable to question current orthodoxy. I will admit that, during this controversy, (in my opinion) some people behaved poorly are acted carelessly, but there was also incredibly vigorous intellectual discussion and debate going on, as well as lots of learning. Perhaps most importantly, the Tuvel controversy was so unusual it is odd to use it as representative of what is wrong with philosophy today.



Add comment