There is a kind of relentless contrarian that is very smart, has voracious reading habits, is funny, and ends up in race science and eugenics. You are familiar with the type. Luckily, analytic philosophy also generates different contrarians about its own methods and projects that try to develop more promising (new) paths than these. Contemporary classics in this latter genre are Michael Della Rocca’s (2020) The Parmenidean Ascent, Nathan Ballantyne’s (2019) Knowing Our Limits, and Elijah Millgram’s (2015) The Great Endarkenment all published with Oxford. In the service of a new or start (sometimes presented as a recovery of older wisdom), each engages with analytic philosophy’s self-conception(s), its predominate methods (Della Rocca goes after reflective equilibrium, Millgram after semantic analysis, Ballantyne after the supplements the method of counter example), and the garden paths and epicycles we’ve been following. Feel free to add your own suggestions to this genre.

Millgram and Ballantyne both treat the cognitive division of labor as a challenge to how analytic philosophy is done with Ballantyne opting for extension from what we have and Millgram opting for (partially) starting anew (about which more below). I don’t think I have noticed any mutual citations.  Ballantyne, Millgram, and Della Rocca really end up in distinct even opposing places. So, this genre will not be a school.

Millgram’s book, which is the one that prompted this post, also belongs to the small category of works that one might call ‘Darwinian Aristotelianism,’ that is, a form of scientific naturalism that takes teleological causes of a sort rather seriously within a broadly Darwinian approach. Other books in this genre are Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back (which analyzes it in terms of reasons without a reasoner), and David Haig’s From Darwin to Derrida (which relies heavily on the type/token distinction in order to treat historical types as final causes). The latter written by an evolutionary theorist.* There is almost no mutual citation in these works (in fact, Millgram himself is rather fond of self-citation despite reading widely). C. Thi Nguyen’s (2020) Games: Agency as Art may also be thought to fit this genre, but Millgram is part of his scaffolding, and Nguyen screens off his arguments from philosophical anthropology and so leave it aside here. So much for set up, let me quote its concluding paragraphs of Millgram’s book:

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