Philosophical Critique and Perceived Practical Irrelevance
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In a fascinating paper, “Ask the Philosopher,” Dimitrios Dentsoras shows how philosophers were once integrally engaged in society as agents of practical advice on how to govern and indeed on how to live. Over the centuries, beginning in Roman times, this social role has diminished to a point where professional philosophers are largely socially irrelevant. What has changed? This paper outlines an argument that identifies a central contribution to its own demise that professional philosophy itself has made. That contribution has to do with how philosophical critique is conceived and operates. Philosophical teaching and publishing focus is on undermining opposing positions, or on eliminating opposition, rather than seeking deeper and genuine understanding. Examining certain elements of this eliminative function presents a possibility of seeing a renewal of philosophy’s previous functions of truth-seeking and accessing the Good.