Monday, June 3, 2013

[PHI 1000] McGinn's Campaign for Renaming Philosophy

In “Philosophy by Another Name,” Colin McGinn writes:
Every professional philosopher, or student of philosophy, knows how linguistically confusing the name of our discipline can be when talking to people outside the field. They immediately assume you are in the business of offering sage advice, usually in the form of unargued aphorisms and proverbs. You struggle to explain that you don't do that kind of philosophy, at which point you may well be accused of abandoning your historical calling — unearthing and explicating the "meaning of life" and what the ultimate human goods are. You may then be castigated for not being a "real philosopher," by contrast with assorted gurus, preachers, homeopaths and twinkly barroom advice givers. Our subject then falls into disrepute and incomprehension.
As a student of philosophy, has this been your experience as well? If so, do you think that non-philosophers' impression of philosophy is a problem for academic philosophy? If it is a problem, what should professional philosophers do about it? McGinn proposes to abandon the name "philosophy" and replace it with "ontics." Do you think that is a good idea?

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