Friday, 13 March 2015 20:00

8. Academic philosophical practice: Foe as friend, or vice versa

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Many philosophical practitioners love to hate academic philosophy. Does the contrast between philosophical practice and academic philosophy correspond to the facts of the real world? I believe not. On the contrary, the discrepancy between academic philosophy and philosophical practice is a rhetoric construction to serve identity problems of some philosophical practitioners.

First, the image of academic philosophy as inimical to life has much to do with some analytic schools of philosophy and little with the continental tradition – to stay in the Western world. In former times, Foucault taught at the Collège de France and cared for excluded groups and prison inmates. Nowadays, Judith Butler, Ágnes Heller or Slavoj Žižek are highly acclaimed academic philosophers engaged in political and social issues.

Second, the vast majority of philosophical practitioners has a strong bond with the academic philosophy both as a study background and a profession. This is not to ignore. The distance between the ivory tower and the market may be shorter than it seems. Philosophy strives above all for clarity. A good academic philosopher does not need a theoretical jargon and a good philosophical practitioner does not need popularize in a manner that reduces the complexity of an issue. Actually, in and outside academia a philosopher should address his public taking as measure what the British call the ‘educated layman’.  

Third, I think the relation between philosophical practice and academic philosophy ought to be seen not as an opposition but in terms of complementary practices. It is the context that changes but not the essence. That can be supported by a genealogical perspective. In the history of philosophy, philosophical practice emerges as a paradigm or an offspring of practical philosophy.

To conclude, to pit philosophical practice against academic philosophy harms the credibility of philosophical practitioners and raises ungrounded suspicions about academic philosophy. Profiles built on emphatic contrast rather reveal uncertainty than assure of importance. The worst thing is that such unnecessary disputes do the image of philosophy no good.

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Manos Perrakis

I am a philosophical practitioner from Athens, Greece, based in Berlin, where I received my Ph.D. from Humboldt University. My areas of interest are History of Philosophy, Contemporary Philosophy, Aesthetics (Philosophy of Music), Philosophical Anthropology and Practical Philosophy.

As a philosophical practitioner, I offer education and consulting services for individuals and organizations. I have conducted philosophical cafés for the wide public and workshops for counseling professionals. My current focus lies on the development of education and consulting formats inspired by philosophy and literature.

My book publications include a monograph on Nietzsche’s philosophy of music in German, a novel in Greek, and an anthology of Early German Romanticism.

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