07 November 2007

Reflections on being a philosopher

It is true that few of the best known philosophers had university appointments, but that does not mean that a philosopher (or any other sort of intellectual) can do without one in the modern world. The great revolution has happened, which has virtually destroyed intellectual and cultural activity outside of state-funded universities. All the philosophers I can think of had private incomes of some sort and also had, in effect, a hotel or at least boarding-house environment, which it was then much easier for middle class or upper class people to have regardless of social recognition. (Working class or poor people could be, of course, and occasionally were, supported by the aristocracy.) And, of course, there was not at that time the same social stigma which now leads to the oppression and censorship of those who are having to function outside of socially-recognised academic institutions.

The idea that scientific research and other intellectual activities should be carried out under the auspices of collectivist institutions has arisen along with the idea that what is done in socially-recognised universities should only be done in them. The suppression of scientific and intellectual activities outside of universities has been much more successful than the encouragement of such things within them.

I have been and still am at a great and almost prohibitive disadvantage to those with university appointments in having to finance my own hotel environment from scratch with no means of livelihood. Of course being a woman has made it even harder. Modern ‘feminism’ has not eliminated the advantage which men have of being able to provide themselves with at least a minimal hotel environment by getting a female partner.

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Regarding the idea that I am a 'sceptic'. I don’t actually want to advocate philosophical scepticism. If you have been forced into the position of an outsider, as I have, people are always trying to ascribe to you belief systems, whereas in fact you are primarily critical of their belief systems.

Any belief system is occlusive (I mean, it reduces awareness of hard-edged reality). But, of course, if you are trying to get a philosophy DPhil at all you cannot say anything you mean very directly. I would much have preferred to write my thesis as an attack on, say, modern moral philosophy, which is very pernicious and depends on unexamined assumptions that are never questioned. But it would not have got me a DPhil, and even what I did write was too near the bone as an implicit attack on modern philosophy of mind, so that I could very easily not have got the DPhil at all.

So it has got around that I ‘advocate’ philosophical scepticism. It is a bit better than being accused of believing in spiritualism, but not really what I would want to be supposed to be trying to put across.

Anyone working here and having contact with us would become aware of references to the 'existential uncertainty'. Actually this is very integral to my ideas about realism in psychology, but is a little more complicated than simply having a blanket scepticism.