Friday, June 10, 2011

The professionalization of philosophy

This is via Wikipedia, so be sure to hold a bit of skepticism, but from what I have read much of it is accurate. This is an interesting non-over-analyzed history of philosophy as it underwent the process of academic professionalization in the 19th and 20th century. This blog is hopefully helping you to acclimate and understand the current expectations of professional philosophy today. 

Comments on accuracy are welcome.

The process of professionalization

Professionalization is the social process by which any trade or occupation establishes the group norms of conduct, acceptable qualificationsfor membership of the profession, a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members of the profession, and some degree of demarcation of the qualified from unqualified amateurs.[1][2] Philosophy underwent this process toward the end of the 19th-century and it is one of the key distinguishing features of the contemporary philosophy era in western philosophy.

Germany was the first country to professionalize philosophy.[3] James Campbell describes the professionalization of philosophy in America:

The list of specific changes [during the late 19th-century professionalization of philosophy] is fairly brief, but the resultant shift is almost total. [...] No longer could the [philosophy] professor function as a defender of the faith or an expounder of Truth. The new philosopher had to be a leader of inquires and a publicizer of results. This shift was made obvious when certified (often German-certified) philosophy Ph.D.'s replaced theology graduates and ministers in the philosophy classroom. The period between the time when almost no one had a Ph.D. to when almost everyone did was very brief. [...] The doctrate, moreover, was more than a license to teach: it was a certificate that the prospective philosophy instructor was well, if narrowly, trained and ready to undertake independent work in the now specializing and restricted field of academic philosophy. These new philosophers functioned in independent departments of philosophy [...] They were making real gains in their research, creating a body of philosophic work that remains central to our study even now. These new philosophers also set their own standards for success, publishing in the recognized organs of philosophy that were being founded at the time: The Monist (1890), The International Journal of Ethics (1890), The Philosophical Review (1892), and The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods (1904). And, of course, these philosophers were banding together into societies--the American Psychological Association (1892), the Western Philosophical Association (1900), and the American Philosophical Association (1900)--to consolidate their academic positions and advance their philosophic work.[4]

At least in America, this professionalization was largely instigated by the reform of the American higher-education system on the German model.[5] Professionalization in England was similarly tied to developments in higher-education. In his work on T.H. Green, Denys Leighton discusses these changes in British philosophy and Green's claim to the title of Britain's first professional academic philosopher:

Henry Sidgwick, in a generous gesture, identified [T.H.] Green as Britain's first professional academic philosopher. Sidgwick's opinion can certainly be questioned: William Hamilton, J.F. Ferrier and Sidgwick himself are among the contenders for that honour. [...] Yet there can be no dount that between the death of Mill (1873) and the publication of G.E.Moore's Principia Ethica(1903), the British philosophical profession was transformed, and that Green was partly responsible for the transformation. [...] Bentham, the Mills,, Carlyle, Coleridge, Spencer, as well as many other serious philosophical thinkers of the nineteenth century were men of letters, administrators, active politicians, clergy with livings, but not academics. [...] Green helped separate the study of philosophical from that of literary and historical texts; and by creating a philosophy curriculum at Oxford he also established a rationale for trained teachers of philosophy. When Green began his academic career much of the serious writing on philosophical topic was published in journals of opinion devoted to a broad range of [topics] (rarely to 'pure' philosophy). He helped professionalize philosophical writing by encouraging specialized periodicals, such as 'Academy' and 'Mind', which were to serve as venues for the results of scholarly research.[6]

The end result of professionalization for philosophy has meant that work being done in the field is now almost exclusively done by university professors holding a doctorate in the field publishing in highly technical, peer-reviewed journals. While it remains common among the population at large for a person to have a set of religious, political or philosophical views that they consider their “philosophy”, these views are rarely informed or connected to the work being done in professional philosophy today. Furthermore, unlike many of the sciences for which there has come to be a healthy industry of books, magazines, and television shows meant to popularize and communicate the technical results of that scientific field to the general populace, works by professional philosophers directed at an audience outside the profession remains rare. Philosopher Michael Sandel's book “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?” and Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit” hold the uncommon distinction of having been written by professional philosophers but directed at and ultimately popular among a broader audience of non-philosophers. Both works became New York Times best sellers.

[edit]Professional philosophy today

Not long after their formation, the Western Philosophical Association and portions of the American Psychological Association merged with the American Philosophical Association to create what is today the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States: theAmerican Philosophical Association. The Association has three divisions - Pacific, Central and Eastern. Each division organises a large annual conference. The biggest of these is the Eastern Division Meeting, which usually attracts around 2,000 philosophers and takes place in a different east coast city each December. The Eastern Division Meeting is also the USA's largest recruitment event for philosophy jobs, with numerous universities sending teams to interview candidates for academic posts. Among its many other tasks, the association is responsible for administering many of the profession's top honors. For example, the Presidency of a Division of the American Philosophical Association is considered to be a professional honor and the American Philosophical Association Book Prize is one of the oldest prizes in philosophy. The largest academic organization devoted to specifically furthering the study of continental philosophy is the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.


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