Friday, March 09, 2012

Omnivore - Philosophy by Another Name

Bookforum's Omnivore offers another interesting collection of links on the topic of philosophy. The article from Colin McGinn is interesting - and he has a good point. Philosophy means different things in the academy and in common usage - it might be time to rename the field.
Let us drop the name “philosophy” for the discipline so called and replace it with a new one. The present name is obsolete, misleading and harmful — long past its expiration date.

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.”


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