Page:Lawhead columbia 0054D 12326.pdf/25

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Chapter One

Who Are You, and What Are You Doing Here?

1.0 Cooperate or Die

The story of science is a story of progress through collaboration. The story of philosophy, on the face of it, is a story of neither: it is an academic cocktail party cliché that when an area of philosophy starts making progress, it’s time to request funds for a new department. If this observation is supposed to be a mark against philosophy, I’m not sure I understand the jibe—surely it’s a compliment to say that so much has sprung from philosophy’s fertile soil, isn’t it? Whether or not the joke contains a kernel of truth (and whether or not it does indeed count as a black mark against the usefulness of the discipline) is not immediately important. This project is neither a work in philosophy as traditionally conceived, nor a work in science as traditionally conceived: it is, rather, a work on a particular problem. I’ll say a bit more about what that means below, but first let’s start with an anecdote as a way into the problem we’ll be tackling.

In 2009, Columbia University's Mark Taylor, a professor of Religion, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times calling for a radical restructuring of academia. Among the controversial changes proposed by Taylor was the following: "Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed.[1]" This suggestion drew a lot of fire from other academics. Brian Leiter, on his widely-circulated blog chronicling the philosophy


  1. Taylor (2009)