It’s amazing how often that term is thrown like a brick at one’s head. As a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin some 30 years ago (could it really have been that long?) I was drummed out of the philosophy department after one year. It turned out that i was not a ‘real’ philosopher. What was I, then? They were unsure as to the exact diagnosis; a sociologist perhaps, or perhaps a historian of ideas. But assuredly not a philosopher. Could they please direct me to the text that conclusively demonstrated the rigor and righteousness of the categories they applied so easily? In response, they blinked.
A few months later we were heading back to Flagstaff (I was going to study geology) when Joe Flay at Penn State called with a scholarship. It seems that i was not quite done with philosophy after all. Penn State was a much more accommodating place: after all, my dissertation adviser allowed (hell, paid for) me to build a cabin as part of my work on Heidegger’s Building Dwelling Thinking. But still, when I proposed to the departmental chair that we inaugurate a graduate class in philosophy on the question of what counted as philosophy (could you, for instance, literally ‘philosophize with a hammer’?), I received the same blinking stare.
Somehow I had never gotten the memo on what constituted real philosophy.
Well, after decades of study and deliberation, I am pleased to be able to define what ‘real’ philosophy is. And here’s the real surprise: it’s just what we’ve been doing here at CSID!
It works like this: begin with a decent education in philosophy. (dive into old books; get a PhD; be a monk for 4-5 years.) Then–and here’s the shocker–rather than spending the next 40 years repeating what you’ve learned, and making marginal contributions to the scholarly literature, go out into the world and find new places to insinuate philosophy. Philosophy is a fungus: mushroomlike, it pops up everywhere. ‘Real’ philosophers hunt for opportunities for drawing out the latent philosophy within everyday situations, while trying to avoid the death caps. It takes some artful footwork….