Some philosophers have physics envy, too, largely because they think that only real scientists get respect in the currency of contemporary culture.
Pitiful. Typifies what is wrong with academic philosophy. The obvious retort is. if you want to be considered a scientist, then do the math.
Oh right, academic philosophers in the US already did that by focusing attention on logical positivism in the early 20th century and then symbolic logic back in the Sixties.
Traditional inquiry about the enduring questions based on perennial wisdom went out the window. Just as contemporary New Classical economists do not read in the history of economics, so too, contemporary philosopher have abandoned the history of ideas.
As a result, philosophy now has bad name since it has not live up to its stated purpose, "philosophy" meaning love of wisdom. Contemporary academic philosophy aborted that search when scientists started getting all the respect, since they apparently felt left out, as McGinn's article shows.
The word “philosopher,” as everyone knows, means “lover of wisdom,” from the Greek. Its origin is sometimes attributed to Pythagoras, who is said to have coined it in order to distinguish people like himself from the sophists (both words have the same Greek root, “sophia”). Sophists, Pythagoras argued, are not genuine lovers of knowledge but only purveyors of rhetorical tricks, whereas another group of thinkers — those who possess a true “thirst for learning” — qualify as the real thing. This name stuck and came to be used to describe a very wide range of thinkers — anyone with a real intellectual interest. It is now, however, used extremely narrowly, at least within the academy, excluding people from most academic departments, but still applied to the few who study the subject now called “philosophy.”Those inquirers in other fields have new names more suitable to their specificity: physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and history among them. But philosophy is still called by the old highly general name Pythagoras introduced. And here we already see an obvious objection to the label: Isn’t everyone employed in a university, and indeed some people beyond, a “lover of wisdom”?
Most academics are not “sophists”! Physicists, say, have the attitude described as much as philosophers. But why should one particular discipline be characterized by reference to an attitude instead of a subject matter?
Here is a "philosopher" who does not know the meaning of the term "wisdom" as used by the ancients.
One the first day of my first class in philosophy in 1959 as a college junior, the meaning of "philosophy" was explained in detail. We learned that "philosophy" was Greek for love of wisdom and that "philosophy" in ancient times signified a way of life dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom. The goal of the genuine philosopher was to become a sage rather than simply a purveyor of information about the material side of life.
Significantly, the two most influential philosopher-sages in the West have been Socrates and Jesus, neither of whom either was an academic nor did either of them write a word. But their influence is still pervasive, and Western culture is inconceivable without their seminal contributions to living the good life and attaining wisdom, which Socrates called "self-knowledge" and Jesus "the kingdom," through the core spirituality taught by the sages of perennial wisdom of all times and climes.
Actually, I agree with McGinn that academic philosophy should change its name to distinguish itself as emulating scientists rather than sages. The present approach to philosophy in academia dishonors the discipline and has relegated it to comparative irrelevance.
OK, maybe I am being too hard on Professor McGinn. His work demonstrates keen interest in the most important philosophical subjects of the day, including the philosophy of consciousness, which is the next frontier. But I stand by what I have written about the views stated above.
Read it at The New York Times
Philosophy by Another Name
By Colin McGinn | Professor and Cooper Fellow, University of Miami