Derrida held that philosophy be considered a kind of writing, a particular cultural practice. Richard Rorty agrees with this characterization. The idea that philosophy is a kind of literature has other implications besides the idea that, as literature, it will have literary style. This essay particularizes the idea of philosophy as a kind of literature by proposing another analogy, one that seems to me to capture a great deal of what philosophy, or at least the kind of philosophy that attracted me decades ago and continues to attract me, is like. Briefly, many puzzling features of contemporary analytic philosophy are illuminated by characterizing this kind of philosophy as an art-form with affinities to painting. So, analytic philosophy is a special kind of fine art writing.
I should qualify what follows by saying that my life as a philosopher has been in analytic philosophy primarily. I have read rather a lot of Continental work, and written about some connections, but my real home is in analytic philosophy. So, much of what I have to say about philosophy, its nature and its future, may be parochial. In any case, analytic philosophy is a rather big parish.
In my undergraduate days, I was torn between my graphic arts/ painting near-major and my philosophy major. Working on a painting seemed, from the inside at least, a great deal like working on a paper. One is engrossed, thinking about little else for days at a time, running into problems, solving them, running into more problems, and so on until the thing is done. Once I had made the decision about what to go to graduate school in, I continued to be struck by the parallels between these activities. When I finally had to give up trying to be both a painter and a philosopher, because they are both full-time projects, about eight years into my teaching career, it seemed to me that I was still doing the same kind of thing in writing philosophy essays that I had given up doing in painting, drawing, and lithography. The resemblance between painting and philosophy seemed at least as strong as the relation between science and philosophy. If we want to ask the question, “What is philosophy?” and want to answer it by saying “Philosophy is a great deal like cultural practice X,” then painting and some other fine arts seem to me to be as good a candidate for the X as science.
We can then return to the idea that philosophy is a kind of literature and see what kind of “fine arts literature” it is. I will propose that philosophy is a conceptual art-form. Some important features of philosophy, such as intertextuality, are peculiar to philosophy’s status as literature, but others seem not to rely on being linguistic at all. Those are the aspects painting, as non-verbal, makes salient.
I take this description of philosophy as a kind of defense of the practice of philosophy as it has been carried on for the past century or so. On the other hand, though, I will conclude the essay by glumly predicting that the conditions for the existence of this writing practice are starting to disappear.
What is Real Painting?
Here is a sketch of some features of the cultural practice of “fine art” painting.
Many very good painters, especially since the mid-nineteenth century, became convinced that they and only they are painting in the way painting ought to be done. Especially since the invention of photography, this conviction has often been put as the view that one newly discovered way of painting really portrays reality. Thus the Impressionists, the Pointillistes, the Cubists, and the other groups of painters argued that only their way of painting, among the ways of painting past and current, captured really true representation. Practitioner-theorists doing non-representational art argued that they had discovered what painting was always all about. In general, very, very good and significant painters took themselves to have finally discovered the true painting, the correct way of doing what painting is called upon to do. They were wrong, of course. It can be noted for future reference that there is little correlation between the plausibility of painters’ theorizing about painting and the work that comes out of such theorizing.
At the same time, most painters have taken their predecessors to be relevant to their practice. Often, this has been because some of what their predecessors did can be understood as in various ways grasping some of the insights these new revolutionaries are finally getting clear about. Meanwhile, even very revolutionary painters recognize that at least some earlier painters were doing really good work. Often, the view is that certain figures are over-rated by benighted moderns, while other greater predecessors have been neglected. Less ideological contemporaries have tended to think that there were many great artists in the past, even though that is not a reason to paint in their way. The history of painting has figured large in painters’ thought and painting. The admiration for, say, Rembrandt, does not mean that a painter wants to do work that is like Rembrandt’s or that the painter wants to do paintings that are indistinguishable from “new” Rembrandts.
One of the traditional conceptions of what painting was supposed to do was displaced by photography, starting in the first half of the 19th century. “Representation,” as common-sensically conceived, was no longer the special province of painters and draftsmen, but was much more accurately and reliably achieved by this new practice. The new practice took rather different skills and technology, and did not seem to require the “spiritual insight” that Romantics had come to attribute to painters. Painters and draftsmen came up with a variety of accounts of kinds of representation that only painters and draftsmen could achieve. The invention of photography seems to correspond pretty well with “theoretical” discussions of what painting should be.
Art changes, results are achieved, and problems are solved, but it is not clear that there is “artistic progress” in the sense of getting closer to a goal. There is development between, Botticelli and Monet, but it is difficult to find a scale on which that difference is becoming better art or getting closer to some truth, either about painting or about the world. It is true that certain problems that Botticelli faced had been worked out in the intervening centuries. Various painterly difficulties are solved in various ways through the history of art. Representation of folds, perspective, and how to represent shadow are better handled in some eras than in others, and the techniques accumulate.
But the problems are not problems for anyone but painters -- they are problems specific to painting or specific to painting in certain ways. The solutions to some problems, how to represent space, for instance, may not even be relevant to some ways of painting. While it can happen that a solution to a painterly problem may be applied in other areas of life, and may have great effects on other areas of life, as it is imagined that Goya’s work did, these side effects are usually not what interest painters and graphic artists. Paintings that have good effects are perhaps good and paintings, but that does not make them good paintings.
What is Real Philosophy?
This section consists of citing the obvious parallels with the above four remarks about painting, and speculating about why philosophy has these characteristics.
Very good philosophers have thought other ways of writing did not really qualify as philosophy, or were seriously and profoundly misguided. The main division today is between the “analytic” and “continental” groups of philosophers. The plausibility and philosophical interest of the “metaphilosophical” writings of philosophers often has little to do with the quality of philosophical work that is produced. Just as one does not have to be a futurist to think highly of Marinetti’s work, so one need not hold that Being is the special mission of philosophy to admire Heidegger or be a verificationist to admire Carnap. The lack of correlation between the plausibility of philosophers’ theories about philosophy and the work produced in the light of those theories is as obvious in philosophy as in painting. It should be clear in the same way that cubist accounts of true representation need not be good in order for cubist work to be good.
Most philosophers have taken their predecessors to be relevant to their practice. Often, this is because some of what their predecessors did can be understood as in various ways grasping some of the insights these new revolutionaries are finally getting clear about. In contrast, the history of medicine, of linguistics, of mathematics is irrelevant to the on-going practice of those disciplines.
Why do philosophers read the history of philosophy? My hypothesis is that the history of philosophy contains some fine work. Why is that fine work relevant to contemporary work? Many answers come to mind:
In some loose sense, that in which painters have always dealt with “the same problems” philosophy at least since Plato has always had some of the same problems. That is, among the problems that philosophy deals with in a particular culture, some of them are problems that bear some family relationship to problems philosophy dealt with in other cultures.
Philosophers learn “philosophy appreciation” by studying the history of philosophy. If philosophy is an intertextual literary art, then to learn to do philosophy is to learn some background texts. It is also to learn how to do philosophy, in the way that studying how Caravaggio solved some problems is a way for a painter to learn how to address his own problems.
There seem now to be at least two distinct sets of background texts for Western philosophy, the “Continental” and the “Analytic” with a substantial overlap from Kant backwards. Is there a single art called “philosophy” or not? I think of this split as akin to a division in a literary genre. The overlap of the network of texts is sufficient. There need not be a single network of texts, as long as the networks have some common historical components. The literary institution of the novel seems to me like this. Many distinct genres, having common historical predecessors, are novels, even though the particular conventions of Hammett’s work are quite different from Bioy Casares’. Both ways of doing philosophy are fine art philosophy. The overlap in texts is what makes it possible to connect, for instance, Derrida and Davidson.
By a gradual process ending some two hundred years ago, philosophers lost their franchise on knowledge of how things really are. Whereas Descartes could write on optics, invent analytic geometry, and re-do metaphysics, that had ceased to be the case after Kant. Whatever “scientific method” is, the practices of chemists and physicists came to be quite different from those of philosophers. “Getting reality right,” which had been the franchise of philosophy, as it had before when philosophy was Wisdom, was clearly and obviously being done differently and effectively by scientists in a variety of fields.
Philosophers looked for some sense in which reality could be gotten right for which they were especially equipped. Something like this thought about their art as opposed to photography moved painters to seek something special to do. Many candidates emerged, and produced great works of philosophy, but not of science. For instance: “Philosophers supply the metaphysical foundations for science and everything else;” “Philosophers discover the epistemological foundations of all scientific knowledge.” “Philosophers clarify logical relations among concepts.” “Philosophers do conceptual rather than physical analysis.” “Philosophy is therapy for people obsessed with philosophy.” “Philosophers understand how Being is revealed.” And so on. Each of these special projects has had a vogue, sometimes more than once. A lot of the products of such accounts of the true nature of philosophy were really good work.
What about philosophical progress? How much better is the philosophy of today than fourth century BCE philosophy or the philosophy of the mid-seventeenth century? Related, but different problems are addressed at different times. The problems that philosophers address are problems for philosophers, as problems in painting are problems for painters, rather than the population as a whole.
The improvement in verisimilitude, in getting the world right, there has been is largely parasitic on the intervening progress of the dropouts from philosophy, science and mathematics. All that is really wrong with Aristotle’s Peri Psyche is an inadequate theory of the mechanisms of the brain. The analysis of responsibility in the NichomacheanEthics is as good as anything up to its rediscovery in the 1950s. All that is wrong with his metaphysics is his wrong guess as to what would turn out to be the fundamental entities in explanations.
The logical problems and the deep puzzles are still there, in more or less the form in which they were first posed. The sorites, for instance, was a well-known problem for the medium-sized object defender. Eubulides, in fact, formulated four paradoxes that have been central to analytic philosophy for over a hundred years.
We probably have gotten better in the sense that we do more detailed analyses, because there are a lot more of us, and we have a much larger population to recruit from. But those old guys were really good. Most genuinely philosophical historians of philosophy read their predecessors as contemporaries who are sadly misinformed about science.
Just as Pollock’s admiration for Tintoretto doesn’t mean that Pollock will do Tintoretto-like work, so your admiration for Hume does not mean that you will try to do more Hume-like work. Things change, but it’s not progress, any more than art history is a tale of progress.
Is this simile demeaning?
Some people would take it seriously amiss that I characterize philosophy as a fine art rather than a science. Here are some remarks to remove some of the feeling that this diminishes the worth of philosophy:
Being an art does not mean that philosophy is not serious, or that philosophy does not try to get things right and sometimes succeed. Anyone who has ever worked at painting or drawing knows that these are very serious undertakings. However, doing a painting or a series of painting is not quite having a research program. I’ve always felt awkward about describing my writing as “research,” except when I’ve dabbled in linguistic semantics. “I’m trying to show that medium-sized objects like chairs don’t really exist.”
A practice being a fine art does not mean that every practitioner is a fine artist. Even among painters who are work hard, are well-trained, and take their work very seriously, much of the product is just pretty good. There are very many more average painters than great ones, and the same is true of philosophers. Being just pretty good, though, means being decent work. This work would be publishable work, if it were prose rather than painting. A philosopher, like a painter, should be happy to have produced one or two really good pieces, one or two real contributions to the enterprise. Among painters who don’t take their work seriously, are poorly trained, and so forth, most of the product is not worth doing.
A practice being a fine art does not mean that it is an art everyone is bound to appreciate. Some fine arts leave many people cold, or could strike people as silly. My personal view of most operas is that baloney gets in the way of music. Look at the alternately pompous and silly book for The Magic Flute. A taste for philosophy is a taste. People can live without it, and people can be decent, intelligent people without appreciating it. In fact, I suspect that really being into fine-art philosophy is pretty unusual indeed.
Some traditions and schools of painting may be less fruitful than others. Some genres may be limiting. It may be that no specialist in cameos ever does anything as great as a merely pretty good Dutch interior painter. So, philosophy being a fine art does not mean that all kinds of philosophy are equally good.
Painters and philosophers seek to get things right. What is this “getting things right?” Just as different painters can get things right even though their paintings look very different, so too philosophers can get things right even though they are saying different things. Take portraiture. Suppose that, per impossibile, Rembrandt and Picasso both paint portraits of Gertrude Stein. Is there a way of adding up the information in both portraits to get a better picture of Stein? This seems just as silly as the idea of adding up Derrida’s “White Mythology” and Davidson’s “What Metaphors Mean,” the two best treatments of metaphor I know of. They do very different things. This is not to say that someone could not write another piece on metaphor strongly influenced by both Davidson and Derrida. I don’t want to choose between Derrida and Davidson. Their contributions are both very important and wonderful pieces.
Philosophy as Literary Art
Here is an anecdote I have cited at least once before: In the eighties, I gave Derrida a copy of Naming and Necessity. Since we had been having conversations about analytic and continental philosophy, I thought this would be an excellent way for Derrida to see what was interesting and terrific about analytic philosophy. Derrida told me that he had already read the book, and that he couldn’t make sense of it. On the other hand, he said, Heidegger was completely clear. What to make of such incomprehension? For Derrida, having been trained in the aura of a different set of background texts, the issues were either not important, or were not being presented in a way that would make their importance clear. A lot of translation is required to see, what, for instance, Quine and Derrida have in common.
In literary theory, the relationship to texts is called “intertextuality.” Sophisticated literary works presuppose exposure to and familiarity with other texts. Exposure to other texts produces knowledge of topoi, genres, and other features with which literary artists work. How will you identify a gentle satire? Unless rhymes are usually phonologically exact, there will be nothing striking about rhyming “core” with “car.” How many of us without expertise in Japanese can tell a good haiku from a routine one? How much of Rochester’s poetry will you miss if you think “Phyllis,” “Daphne,” and “Chloe” are just arbitrary names?
Fine art philosophy is specifically conceptual art. It is different from fantasy and science fiction. Besides the linkage to the body of texts that is the philosophical tradition, or a part of it, a kind of realistic focus is part of philosophical practice. Part of the interest of philosophy is something like “verisimilitude” or “lifelikeness” that is applied to novels. What exactly is it that makes characters seem life-like? What makes some conceptual artistry “realistic” or interesting and other constructions not? I can think of two factors that apply to philosophy:
First, there is a presumption that the enterprise is aimed at the truth about the topic. This presumption is that there is some right answer to the problems that are being addressed. A possible right answer may be that the question is indeterminate, or relative, or that some presupposition of the question is mistaken. But if a philosopher becomes convinced that the discussion is all just a game, the charm and interest vanishes, and the project is dropped.
Second, the project has to be reasonably hard. In every art, constraints are important. The artistry is to succeed within those constraints. So, particular verse-forms, the fugue, and the critique make it possible to do something pretty good. The harder the project, other things being equal, the better the accomplishment. A new but simple discovery or a new puzzle is hard because anyone else could have thought of it but did not. Tastes differ here. Some people love paradoxes, other people think they are silly.
Third, it helps, in cases in which the work is a phase of a disputation, either against a particular individual or against the received view, if the “opponent” is quite a good philosopher. Some of the time, there is a repertoire of issues and options that has grown up in the field. If a view has achieved wide currency, a refutation of that view, showing that it is incompatible with other current views, is interesting.
Does Analytic Philosophy have a future?
The practices of the academic culture have been working against the existence of academic philosophy as a cultural enterprise that is partly constituted by shared texts for quite a while. Career success depends on lots of publications; lots of publications require specialization; specialization, for normal humans, requires near total ignorance of much of philosophy. We have already gotten to the point where near-total ignorance of Hegel and Hegel is acceptable in analytic philosophy. Very soon, people will never have read Rawls or Kripke, but only the works in their sub-specialty. Any synthesizing between areas of philosophy or bringing one area’s insights to bear on another will be out of the question. Anyone who attempted to have an understanding of most of philosophy would not get tenure, and so would have little influence and little ability to sustain fine art philosophy.
This is nobody’s fault. In America since the late sixties, there have been many more qualified PhDs in Philosophy generated every year than there are permanent tenure-track jobs. The “standards” for tenure at respectable universities have risen to the point where a book is required in addition to the pile of articles.
How does one publish articles in peer-reviewed journals as a graduate student or a brand-new faculty member, given that, like almost all of us, one is probably not a genius with a truly great idea? One must master a literature and find something to contribute to it. In order to do this quickly, the literature to be mastered must be focused and manageable, and contributions to it must not require deep understanding of topics outside it. So, the survival strategy for graduate students and new PhDs is to choose a narrow specialty early. After a decade, these narrow literatures themselves become, by the addition of so many contributions, very large. So a successful publication strategy must be even more narrowly focused, since publication, of course, requires a thorough “knowledge of the literature.” Each formerly small literature becomes vast by this process. The literary venues in every field, sub-field, and sub-sub-field have proliferated to meet this demand. The number of philosophy journals in English has vastly increase in the past four decades, to the point where it is probably impossible to follow even a fraction of them. Oxford University Press publishes hundreds of new philosophy books every year.
Supposing (what is unlikely) that the culture will be willing to support such activities, there will be a variety of narrowly-focused disciplines on contextualist epistemology, non-classical logics, 18th-century French thought, and the like. Philosophy as such will at best be something like science—a field whose participants have almost no shared special knowledge that would make their writings parts of the same enterprise.
Without shared texts, there is nothing that holds areas of philosophy together. The particular conceptual fine art that was philosophy from the mid-1700s to the present has depended on non-specialization in the texts with which one is familiar. To see this one need only to observe that there is nothing intrinsic to the subject matters that makes gender injustice, proof-theory, and the question of the nature of art be instances of the same field. The field of philosophy, what has made it appropriate to have departments of philosophy, philosophy majors, and philosophy journals, is constituted by overlapping shared texts. A speaker can come to a department and give a talk on virtually anything that is part of philosophy, and the audience can understand it and make intelligent comments.
The basis for a department of philosophy is primarily a shared body of texts. What those texts cover is contingent—basically whatever has not yet become a scientific field of its own. This contingency does not mean that there is no value in the genre of philosophy writing. It is contingent that ballet evolved so that you have to dance on your toes. For a few hundred years, there have been departments with this kind of binding—groups of scholars all of whom knew something about the whole field, having studied most of some loosely defined body of canonical texts. There is arguably enough overlap in the sequence of sets of such canonical texts to say that there has been a field.
Among thinkers who wrote before the sciences began to drop out, modern philosophy selected those who did great work on the topics that remained part of philosophy as predecessors. The Greeks, a few Hellenistic thinkers, some theologians of the western monotheisms, and anyone who took up the problems dealt with by Plato and Aristotle, were recruited as early writers in this same genre.
The genre of modern philosophy itself as it came to be is a cultural development and not a part of the human condition. It is an art-form which consists of conceptual construction addressing problems and topics somehow derived from problems and topics in a particular group of texts. The texts, topics and problems have evolved over the decades, but with enough continuity to reasonably call what we do and what Wolff did the same enterprise. Writers in this genre must connect with most of the texts, and their writing must at least be aware of what has been written in the whole field. The writers are all connected by a common background.
When that connection ceases, there will no longer be that cultural practice. Given the on-going fragmentation I have observed, it seems very likely that in a few decades there will be no more instances of the cultural phenomenon that was philosophy in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. Probably something called philosophy will continue to exist, but it seems unlikely that it will be in academic departments and even less likely that it will continue the particular fine art genre that is now philosophy. To see what will be left, we should examine how the cultural practice of philosophy came into existence.
Philosophy in the future: back to the beginning
Philosophy seems to have arisen as a Hellenization of the ancient Mediterranean Wisdom tradition. This had been a profession in Mesopotamia and Egypt for about two and a half millennia before the Greeks got into the act. Wisdom professionals had schools, passing their wisdom down to disciples, as is the pattern in early philosophy and the Rabbinic tradition. Wisdom was regarded as a completed body of knowledge, to be learned and transmitted, more or less like plane geometry. Wisdom literature was primarily a literature on how to live, but also covered all of natural science. Sages were not only wise, they also had scientific knowledge.
The Bible and extra-Biblical Jewish works contain the most familiar examples of Wisdom literature. The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon are relatively well-known. They seem to be nothing but applied ethics. But if you look at 1 Kings 5, describing Solomon, you see that Solomon’s wisdom consists not only of practical matters, but of scientific matters as well. “He could talk about plants from the cedars in Lebanon to the hyssop growing on the wall, and he could talk of animals and birds and reptiles and fish.” In the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 7, Solomon is portrayed as knowing astronomy, meteorology, the elements, logic, and everything else. This text is quite late, well after Hellenization (1st or 2nd century BCE) but seems to preserve traditions of what “wisdom” was conceived to be. While it is true that the main stock-in-trade of Wisdom professionals was applied ethics, they covered science generally.
What about philosophy? If we look where the first philosophers came into existence, it is Ionia, the part of the Greek world most imbedded in the Middle East. The Ionians departed from the Wisdom tradition in being individualistic, rather than just transmitting lore. Their Wisdom was innovative, containing new information that only now has been discovered by yours, truly. Thales comes up with his own ideas about how the universe works, in addition to transmitting lore. His disciples likewise come up with their own ideas about the nature of the cosmos and other topics. If we take seriously what Diogenes Laertius says about Thales, he knew pretty much everything about how to live, and was full of advice. Parmenides, aided by Heraclitus, gets the generalizing Greeks to reflect on existence, oneness, sameness, and being qua being quite apart from any practical application to how one should live one’s life. The Greek interest in purely theoretical matters for their own interest, this impractical Greek off-shoot of Wisdom, is what philosophers like me, at least, find to be interesting and often beautiful.
Philosophy, in short, was sometimes innovative, creative, and impractical Wisdom. However, apart from the highlights we philosophers concentrate on, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus, Plotinus, and some Medievals,  the majority of the work in philosophy continued to be advice on how to live.
The other parts of Wisdom besides advice on living, astronomy, physics, biology, reasoning, and the like, were still products of the philosophy brand for quite a long time. However, in the early modern period some of the various fields covered by Wisdom and Philosophy began to have specialists with their own methods and specialized expertise.
Descartes did important work in optics, physics, and mathematics. Isaac Newton called himself a philosopher of nature. After the time of Kant, who proposed a serious and plausible theory of the formation of the solar system, physics and biology and astronomy had become their own fields. Psychology dropped off in the late nineteenth century. Logic is in the process of becoming primarily a field of mathematics.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, philosophy in relation to the sciences had something like painting’s problematic in relation to photography. The twentieth century was in good part a search for something important for philosophy especially to do. With one exception, discussed below, it became more and more difficult to distinguish the jobs of philosophers of psychology from theoretical psychologists, of philosophers of physics from theoretical physicists, of philosophers of language from linguistic semanticists, and so forth.
The exception is ethics. Ethics, in its “applications,” has been the steady product of the philosophy brand since the brand was called Wisdom five thousand years ago. Certainly in late antiquity the majority of philosophical discussions were fancy and thoughtful versions of advice columns, just as Wisdom literature had been. People who would be puzzled by the comment “that’s of merely practical interest” are eager to consult people who have skill at giving advice on how to live.
So the Greek obsession with individual achievement, which played into the Romantic idea of individual creativity in the late Eighteenth century, and produces great conceptual art to this day, will, I think, decline to the kind of activity that Wisdom literature was—the preservation of the voice of experience. Edifying discourses have been much the same for close to six thousand years. There is very little of a general nature to be done in the area of “how to live a good life” that has not been done pretty well in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Epictetus.
The institutional possibility of the more interesting art of philosophical investigation will have ceased to exist in another few decades. While philosophy departments do ethics and applied ethics as part of the over-all conceptual picture that includes researches into the nature of being, reason, language, and so forth, it makes sense for there to be philosophy departments which would produce some well-thought-out advice based on the latest thinking about comparative adjectives, essentialism, how history affects mores, the status of knowledge claims, and the nature of predication. Once the conceptual interconnection of those areas has ceased to be realized in populations of actual thinkers, the only philosophical product that a rationally choosing society will support will be applied ethics itself, that is, edifying discourses. The unified “field” which allowed Quine and Weiss to engage in dialogue in the fifties, and allowed Ryle to write an intelligent review of Being and Time will have fragmented into a number of special fields with no textual connection and nothing that constitutes a group of thinkers as a “field” or “discipline.” __________________________
 Rorty Richard, “Philosophy as a Kind of Writing: an Essay on Derrida in Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980, 90-109. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1982.  It may be puzzling why a simile is needed. We do not seem to have interest in or difficulty saying what refrigerator-moving is or what an accounting is. One view held by many philosophers, sometimes only in their heart of hearts, sometimes overtly as in Heidegger, is that Philosophy has an essence, a special calling. This idea is, of course, absolutely required if one is to hold that only one’s own way of doing philosophy is “real” philosophy.  In contrast to what? Perhaps in contrast to science. But what conception of science does this presuppose? I am not at all confident that the picture of science as dispassionate seeking for the causal underpinnings of the real is complete. Elegant work is appreciated in science.  In the decades during which I have tried to counsel eager students out of attempting to have a career in philosophy, the striking fact is that people who want to be philosophers are passionate about this desire in a way that you don’t see except among artists and people who like cars. For all I know, this passion for the field, based on little exposure, is just as common in Leisure Studies and Economics. But in my experience, the people who are willing to forego material success for the sake of something, who have day jobs but define themselves as something else, are painters, musicians, and philosophers.  Many of the features are true of music, for instance, as well. Controversies and “schools” abound in the arts.  Art History is a part of “studio” majors. I can’t think of any non-art field other than philosophy where the history of the field is a standard part of training for practitioners in the field. Medical student do not typically study Galen; physics students do not read Newton’s Principia.  A non-painter might be surprised to learn that Jackson Pollock, whose paintings are about as different from any of these Old Masters as could be, studied, analyzed and sketched works of Tintoretto, El Greco, Rembrandt, and others. See Baetjer, K., Messinger, I. M., and Rosenthal, N., The Jackson Pollock Sketchbooks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).  Kant’s conjecture about the origins of the Solar system in his Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theoriedes Himmels, 1755, is the last genuine contribution to physical science by a famous professional philosopher I can think of.  Remember that routine painting is called “academic.” Almost all philosophers are academics. Maybe we should be worried about this. I think not, actually. Almost all very good philosophers of the past two centuries have been academics. Plato was certainly an Academic.  Of course, someone who did not recognize that Derrida is quite a good philosopher would have a ready explanation. A continuing embarrassment to me, as an analytic philosopher, is Derrida’s uncomprehending reception among analytic philosophers.  I’m reminded of chess-appreciation. A really beautiful chess game consists of two very good players neither of whom makes any obvious mistakes and one of whom wins “brilliantly.” Pretend chess games are of little interest, no matter how beautiful the game would have been if it had only happened. My personal preference is for philosophy that is not really directed at anyone, but explores unnoticed connections.  In 1970, you could have read the entire twentieth century literature on the sorites argument in an afternoon. Now the student who wishes to write on vagueness and the sorites needs a year of reading even to get her bearings.  Given the sort of person who is drawn to philosophy, many graduate students would like to have wider knowledge if they could afford the time required. Being equipped to even grasp the secondary literature in another field is very time-consuming. During my untenured years, it took me three years of time-consuming classes to learn enough classical Greek to feel comfortable teaching Ancient Philosophy. Today I would not dare to take so much time away from producing publications if I were an untenured assistant professor.  I have heard it claimed that philosophy is defined by giving reasons and arguments. One would have to be ignorant of what goes on in almost every other field for this to seem remotely plausible.  Wisdom of Solomon, Ch 7: 17: For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements: 18: The beginning, ending, and midst of the times: the alterations of the turning of the sun, and the change of seasons: 19: The circuits of years, and the positions of stars: 20: The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts: the violence of winds, and the reasonings of men: the diversities of plants and the virtues of roots: 21: And all such things as are either secret or manifest, them I know. 22: For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit holy, one only, manifold, subtil, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good quick, … ready to do good,…  Once the puzzling claims of the Western monotheisms came to dominate politically and intellectually, philosophical discussion in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages had theoretical concerns about the nature of god. These discussions, with their nuances, have the kind of fine-art character that makes them interesting philosophy.  Kant, Immanuel. Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels. 1755.  Scott Soames takes a much brighter view of specialization in Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, page xv.
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