ThoughtStorms Wiki

Quora Answer : Are there new or emerging philosophers who are not part of pop culture?

Aug 1, 2014

Maybe you want to consider what is wrong with being part of pop-culture.

Or rather, whether "pop" is something you are or whether it's an inevitable function of the times we're living in.

Let me suggest one of three things is going on :

  • we have become trivial and there are only "pop" philosophers today. (That's your suspicion.)
  • "pop" is what the present looks like. Before history has sorted the deep and genuinely meaningful from the merely ephemeral. We can recognise all those deep thinkers of the past because they're in the past and we have better perspective on them. We can't clearly see who are the deep thinkers today because we're up too close to focus. (See Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Who are the great intellectuals of the late 20th century/early 21st century? for more on this scenario and suggested important thinkers..)
  • there are (potential) deep thinkers today but we live in "pop culture". Those thinkers are all forced to play a game that requires them to interact with television and radio, Twitter and Quora. Perhaps it requires them to play up the controversies. And the cute metaphors. Because, face it, no one is going to read them if they write big long books. So their brilliance is being diffused. Once again, maybe we just can't see who is brilliant. Or maybe their potential brilliance can't be actualized within the present mediascape, and they'll never be comparable to the historical greats.

If you're going to try to navigate the confusion of our media culture, you're going to have to be more specific about you're missing. Or what the symptoms of the "pop" disease are.

In terms of the philosophy I'm hearing about, people like Giorgio Agamben and Emmanuel Levinas seem to be pretty serious. The "Speculative Turn" (Quentin Meillassoux , Graham Harman, Ray Brassier etc. and their influences like Bruno Latour) seem to have new and interesting / challenging things to say.

But, of course, all these philosophers are "pop" if what you mean is they're known about and get students and academic philosophers excited and talking about and reading them. (You can say that the same was true of an earlier generations that from Russell, KarlPopper, LudwigWittgenstein, A. J. Ayer, and (Speculativist hero) Alfred North Whitehead . Or Sartre, Derrida, Deleuze.)

The last time I was really connected with analytic philosophers, John McDowell was a big name. I'm not sure how much things have moved on since then. But Daniel Dennett has respectable work in philosophy of mind before he became a pop evolutionist / atheist. And people like Robert Brandom were saying interesting things.

The bottom line is that there are many serious academic philosophers working today. And if any of them start to get a bit of a reputation, they'll get sucked into engaging the media. Either they'll embrace that ... try to use the media to spread their ideas. But then their ideas will inevitably get diluted in the retelling ... to the extent that people will know them only vaguely and start to accuse them of being vacuous. Or the philosopher will try to duck away from fame. Though it's hard to get a job and have a successful academic career without trying to publish and be recognised.

BTW: I'm not sure I get your point about Occupy. They actually have some pretty smart people behind them. David Graeber is an interesting writer, bringing important ideas to contemporary political and economic debate. And I'm sure there are other deep thinking influences too.


No Backlinks