"A modern philosopher who has never once suspected himself of being a charlatan must be such a shallow mind that his work is probably not worth reading." - Leszek Kolakowski, Metaphysical Horror People who get into philosophy can be insufferable and then tend to suffer if they allow philosophy to affect [infect] their lives, as philosophizing can be a treadmill that never ends. I would not recommend studying it because then you must learn how to escape it.
Perhaps it was merely the "good" fortune of a sanguine and agreeable disposition, but self-deception notwithstanding, I seemed to have mostly circumvented the temptation to subvert philosophy as an instrument of social domination, to one-up or argue my way up the rungs of social hierarchy.
It is still quite lonely nevertheless. This is not to say I wasn't appropriating it and general intellectualism for approval, just not in the obnoxiously aggressive manner devoid of empathy and potential social harm to interlocutors.
It was and is aimed more in the spirit of friendship -- i.e. "have you considered your self, mind, experiences, beliefs, ideas, etc. like this before?" -- more like a perspectival ambassador, than a propositional pugilist.
It is good to remember the philos in philosophy!
We must examine our intentions carefully and indirectly as they flit and elude the scrutiny of direct attention.
Then again, I am a mere rank amateur philosopher and too timid to have mustered the courage to present any unsavory position, though perhaps I have sidestepped another hidden danger by keeping it unprofessional.
I am certainly no gadfly like Socrates.
A fantastic piece outlining the general story arc of those afflicted with a philosophical disposition, Peter.
This was absolutely brilliant.
Okay this is next level, Peter!
Enjoyed reading this, thanks Peter.
When you say, 'I would not recommend studying it because then you must learn how to escape it', I wonder if that's precisely the point. One of my teachers told me 'you have to learn the rules to break them'. At first I thought that was bullshit, designed to trap me in a system of conformity (I wanna be so different, sigh). Now it feels like very good advice. Same goes for spiritual traditions - quite often those at the zenith of the practice will admit that, annoyingly, the only way of seeing that jumping through the hoops is bullshit is by, well, jumping through them. Approaching this from a meta level, and having the humility to not be holier than thou about it, takes a kind of emotional/intellectual courage I don't see much.
When I look at most modern philosophers, I see people who are very good at the abstraction bit. Nothing *wrong* with that, exactly.... but when I look at *very good* modern philosophers, I see people who are taking those abstractions and finding their organic source, if you could call it that. Even better if they start the other way around. Basically, adding the physics to the metaphysics and cooking it up to produce a delicious meal of sensuous realness and dreaminess at the same time.
Calling oneself a philosopher is like calling oneself an artist. It's easy for some - for others it brings up this superiority/inferiority complex, where the latter is, in many ways, more steeped in narcissistic behaviour than the former. Philosopher with the big P. Fuck.
Anyway, you've raised some interesting points. And kudos to your excellent meme game.
I defo do the narcissistic supply thing. David Goggins talks about the more physical version, where you deliberately do extreme shit in front of other men, to steal their self-esteem for yourself, via the male attachment to challenge.
Good piece of writing
Gods damn; meme game so strong. ✨
So WAT aRe YoU TRYiNg 2 SAYYY.....jk lol.
Dude told me once, "Man, we have ALL this access to philosophers and helpful information...but don't learn a damn thing."
Fair enough. We need a livable philosophy. Something BRACING!
I wish this kind of wisdom was more common...<3
To be a charlatan, must one know they are a being deceptive, as it is with liars?
Isn't "narcissistic supply" what narcissists seek as compensation for the void they have where their kindness, empathy and compassion would be had they not been severely abused or neglected as children?
Isn't philosophy the love of wisdom, not some sort of sick joke?
Is there a way to be like Socrates with friends and family that doesn’t make one seem like an arrogant a-hole?
I’m convinced Socrates, supreme intelligence that he was, knew how goddamn annoying he was constantly tearing to shreds people’s false beliefs about themselves and the world around them whenever he happened to saunter down into the agora, hence his desire not to fashion a record of himself. This all to demonstrate the fallibility of human intelligence by way of the simplest, humblest, most counter-intuitive answer you could ever imagine to the entire enterprise of thought itself.
All I know is that I know nothing.
Reading philosophy is worth it just for those words to come into your life, Nietzsche and the whole lot else be damned (save Camus).
But hey, you could always just be a raging pseudo-intellectual like me who parlays over-engagement with philosophical questions into vibrant conversations with strangers. I’ve had some conversations that were at the very least steered by the rudder of philosophical inquiry. They alone would justify the ‘wasted’ time. Time society says I should’ve spent learning how to engineer something other than an engaging discussion. But isn’t life dull enough already?
The other day I was conversing with a New Hampshire logger in a ski lodge bar. He was speaking about the poverty in the area and the recent mass shootings in Maine came up so, naturally, feeling the moment, I broke into a discussion about the effect of loneliness on the soul of a man, how America is the hardest country to be poor in because in other countries you at least have the warmth of community for comfort, and what a sense of security is worth in the context of civil liberties.
He turns, looks me dead in the eyes, and goes:
“Dude, are you like a Navy Seal or something?”
I did not understand something. What distinguishes the “philosopher” from the philosopher?
Moreover, if indeed most philosophers do end up claiming that fundamentally nobody knows shit, how does this make them charlatans as the title suggests?
A fellow philosopher, with or without quotation marks.
As a personal preference shaped by time constraints and interest, I look at practicing philosophy less as exploring it's history, like in academia, and more as looking for probable first principles around a topic and expanding out from there in an attempt to have a greater understanding of reality-- but I acknowledge I might be using the word wrong from an academic perspective; and for better or worse, my academic understanding of philosophy is minimal.
This post seems to me to be about avoiding too much pretentiousness in some form of pursuing philosophy-- which goes along with avoiding the unhealthy effects of bad faith communication-- and avoiding the unhealthiness of perpetual questioning which goes along with the unhealthiness of excessive worrying; which I like the framing I've heard of "worrying" being hurting oneself by excessively focusing on something negative that could happen rather rather than what will.
But going along with looking for first principles of something, practicing philosophy can be the practice of looking for probable cause and effect or causality-- in a simpler fashion than using the scientific method that can potentially at best, give future pointers to scientific researchers-- where this search for causality exists in order to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure; and I am using the word pleasure here in the broadest sense possible where it would include meaning in life and pleasure from the pursuit of moral excellence or virtuousness.
So another way of saying how philosophy is good is that learning about potential causality through philosophy via reason, evidence, and intuiting probability, can benefit wellbeing; and I suppose studying the history of philosophy in the right way gives insight into the failures to understand causality, and how they might relate to human biases and their causes, so that maybe those mistakes aren't made again.
But I think humans might live in a fear-love polarity, and I think I was pursuing a deeper understanding of philosophical causality more out of fear rather than love-- fear of the chance that I might have less long-term potential altruistic impact if I did something else with my time, and fear that I would have less meaning in life as a result. This was causing me more stress and hurting my mental health and offline social interactions. Now I'm exploring trying to follow my heart and what I love, in a leap of faith that this might be both a more objectively moral and pleasurable path, and there are simply other hobbies I love and desire to pursue more at present, like listening to the song "Just To Keep You Satisfied" by Inhaler on repeat.
But if this love-based mindset is generally morally superior to a fear-based one-- maybe people should only pursue any form of understanding of philosophy.. to the degree their love is pulling them towards it, more than any other interest-- where it's at the top of the hierarchy of what they want to pursue-- in their free time.
Two questions, Peter. Was your title intended as clickbait? Did you see what Gregg Henriques said about your article? More from me about this at https://open.substack.com/pub/johnstokdijk538/p/some-philosophers-are-charlatans?r=9im79&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web