Rebecca Goldstein appears to be on a campaign to defend philosophy. In this essay, she defends its ability to make progress, and questions whether it should be lumped in with the humanities. (I wonder what the humanities folks will think of that.)
Philosophy was the first academic field; the founder of the Academy was Plato. Nevertheless, philosophy’s place in academe can stir up controversy. The ancient lineage itself provokes dissension. Philosophy’s lack of progress over the past 2,500 years is accepted as a truism, trumpeted not only by naysayers but even by some of its most enthusiastic yea-sayers. But the truism isn’t true. Both camps mistake the nature of philosophy and so are blind to its progress.
I do think philosophy has enormous value. Much of what I discuss on this blog is philosophy. And it does make progress. Unfortunately for philosophers, that progress is typically measured across centuries, and it appears that ground breaking philosophers are rarely celebrated in their own time.
I do think the field suffers from tolerating too many kooks in its ranks. It seems to share this problem with economics, although they arise for different reasons in each field. In the case of economics, it comes from politics. In philosophy, it may be an unavoidable consequence of being open to new modes of thought. But in both cases, it gives critics ammunition to question the entire field. If philosophy is really about making things more coherent, then the incoherent should be excluded.