Michèle Lamont on Philosophers

by Harry on May 20, 2009

A colleague (in Philosophy) just sent me this interview with Michele Lamont about How Professors Think (which just arrived in my mailbox but I still haven’t read). The book is based on interviews of academics who serve on funding panels, and teases out the differences between several disciplines in how they think of their standards and apply them, among other things.

It’s all worth reading. I was particularly struck by this:

Philosophy is a problem discipline, and it’s defined as such by program officers. Philosophers do not believe that nonphilosophers are qualified to evaluate their work. Perhaps that comes out of the dominance of analytic philosophy, with its stress on logic and rigor. Philosophers think their discipline is more demanding than other fields. Even its practitioners define the discipline as contentious. They don’t see that as a problem; argument and dispute are the discipline’s defining characteristics.

All that conflict makes it difficult to get consensus on the value of a philosophy proposal — or to convince people from other disciplines of its merits. The panels I studied are multidisciplinary. Nonphilosophers are often frustrated with the philosophers. They often discounted what philosophers had to say as misplaced intellectual superiority.

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