What a dreadful dismal year that was. If you started the year with any faith in humanity, you surely didn’t end it that way. The dominant emotion of the year was disbelief and a sense of futility. You felt you were living through a bad dream. Perhaps strangely, I had a productive year philosophically: I wrote a lot and quite liked what I wrote. It felt like a refuge from all the nastiness and stupidity. Will 2017 be any better? I doubt it.
It could be argued that philosophy has always had suicidal tendencies. In the age of logical positivism philosophy tried to kill itself. Philosophy is a nuisance, a headache, a source of misery. I don’t think philosophy will ever die of natural causes (though science might). It is too pressing. But I can see that its practitioners might try to put an end to it. That could succeed, as a matter of institutional reality. That would be a bad thing, but bad things happen.
The recent revelations about the effects of fake news disseminated on the internet suggests that credulity is the main enemy of democracy today. What we need is anti-credulity training: that is, lessons in epistemology. I wish I could say that philosophers are immune to fake news–if it fits their ideological preconceptions.
Every day I wake up and think how bizarre it is that I am not teaching at a university. I feel like Alice–I’ve entered an alternative reality that makes no sense.
I reviewed Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday. Nice book, great subject, fascinating animal.