Obsolete thinking discarded, life goes on

1 minute read

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Russell Jacoby bemoans progress (paywall). He thinks that colleges aren’t teaching people to revere the right nineteenth-century intellectuals:

The divorce between informed opinion and academic wisdom could not be more pointed. If educated individuals were asked to name leading historical thinkers in psychology, philosophy, and economics, surely Freud, Hegel, and Marx would figure high on the list. Yet they have vanished from their home disciplines. How can this be?

In the case of Freud and Marx, because they were wrong. They built grand theories on a foundation of unobserved entities that don’t exist. If you think they are still relevant to modern psychology and economics, your opinion isn’t very ``informed.’’

He goes on for an entire column this way. I see it as a surprising sign of hope that the academic fashions of the 1970’s have given way.

On the subject of Hegel, I have to point you to Brian Leiter’s take: “Please, Oh Please, Could You Publish Something about Philosophy by Someone Who Knows Something (even a little!) about the Subject?” in which he shows just how un-neglected Hegel has been.

Leiter ends with a note relevant to my current featured topic, blogging about your field:

For obvious reasons, intellectual tourists like Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Romano will regularly volunteer their amateurish musings about philosophy to [the Chronicle], since they aren't going to appear in any forum in which the editors know something about the subject. That makes it even more imperative for philosophers to present their work and their discipline to a non-specialist audience.