Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"There's a curious article -- "The Philosophers That Sophie Skipped" -- in the December 7, 1996, issue of the Economist which is a discussion of Russell versus Wittgenstein in the history of twentieth-century philosophy. The writer of this article is clearly on Russell's side and takes some satisfaction in the fact that the profession of philosophy has never been so populated. There have never been more professional philosophers than there are now, and this is something which he thinks that Russell would have welcomed. Certainly, Wittgenstein wouldn't have. Wittgenstein saw his vocation as having to clean the Augean stables of the intellect. He thought that the brilliant young were being distracted from urgent tasks by pursuing these intellectual dead ends. I think he would have been deeply depressed if he'd lived long enough to see how many thousands of philosophers are earning a living that way.

This is not the first time in history that something of this kind has happened. Plato was caustic about Gorgias and the other Sophists who set up what he dismissed as "thinking shops" and, he implied, prostituted their skills for pay."

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