Contemporary philosophy in America is in the midst of a sea change. In simplest terms, it is going from being mainly about a canon of white males to becoming more pluralistic. But this is not a binary issue: traditional or pluralistic. There is much scope for genuine, productive philosophical disagreement on what pluralism can look like, and what form it can take.
To see this, consider the following three questions:
1) Is Pluralism, as opposed to Eurocentrism, correct?
2) Is there merit to Wittgensteinian criticisms of philosophy? (One might ask similarly of Heidegerrian or Pragmatist criticisms, and so on.)
3) Is it possible to do cutting-edge philosophy outside academia?
Each of these questions can be answered yes or no. That means there are eight possible views in conceptual space.
View 1: Eurocentric, Non-Wittgensteinian, Academic philosophy. This is the most traditional view in contemporary academic philosophy. Standard boiler-plate, philosophical canon of white males. This characterization doesn’t mean this view is wrong, or trivial. Nor does it mean that philosophers with this view are racists or are against pluralism. It means they themselves didn’t, or don’t, actively contribute to pluralism. Examples: Russell, Quine, Rawls, Lewis, Scanlon, Korsgaard and so on.
View 2: Eurocentric, Wittgensteinian, Academic philosophy: This is the second most traditional view in contemporary academic philosophy. The canon is still white males, but, on this view, that canon is read with a certain suspicion, with the sense that perhaps philosophy tends to fall into illusions – to get onto friction-less ground, of spinning one’s wheels. Examples: Anscombe, Cavell, Hacker, McDowell, Diamond, MacIntyre and so on.
View 3: Pluralistic, non-Wittgensteinian, Academic philosophy: This is the pluralistic version of View 1, and it is the view of a main uprising in contemporary analytic philosophy. On this view, traditional analytic philosophy can be expanded to incorporate pluralism, so that analytic metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy mind, etc. can merge with feminism, critical race theory, comparative philosophy and so on. Examples: Sen, Nussbaum, Stanley, Langton, Haslanger, Gendler, Shelby, Patil, and so on.
View 4: Pluralistic, Wittgenstienian, Academic philosophy: This is the pluralistic version of View 2, and it is a foil for View 3. On this view, traditional analytic philosophy is a kind of confusion, and so it cannot be the basis for a flourishing pluralistic philosophy. For that a positive philosophy is needed which is able to recognize and move beyond the confusions of traditional analytic philosophy: Wittgensteinian therapy, purged of some of Wittgenstein’s errors, as the foundation for pluralism. Examples: Bauer, Crary, Noe.
View 5: Eurocentric, non-Wittgensteinian, non-Academic philosophy: the non-academic version of View 1. Taking the white, male canon onto the streets. Example: Alain de Botton, David Edmonds, Nigel Warburton.
View 6: Eurocentric, Wittgensteinian, non-Academic philosophy: the non-academic version of View 2. Taking the Wittgensteinain critique of traditional philosophy onto the streets. Example: Rorty.
View 7: Pluralistic, non-Wittgensteinian, non-Academic philosophy: the non-academic version of View 3. On this view, traditional analytic philosophy not only has to be made pluralistic, but it also has to be brought out of the academy. Examples: Richard Marshall, Philosophy Bites, Philosophy Talk, Partially Examined Life sometimes.
View 8: Pluralistic, Wittgensteinian, non-Academic philosophy: the non-academic version of View 4. On this view, traditional analytic philosophy has to be made pluralistic, seen with a critical Wittgensteinian eye, and brought out of academia – in a way where all three of these changes are inter-connected. Examples: Me, Partially Examined Life sometimes. Surely there are many more examples, and I would love to learn about them.
This blog is an attempt to think through, clarify and defend View 8.