Who wants to be a philosopher?

It's so cute when the philosophers struggle to answer a question that's been answered repeatedly outside the bounds of their discipl...

It's so cute when the philosophers struggle to answer a question that's been answered repeatedly outside the bounds of their discipline. They're so self-limiting and coyly arrogant when they do that.

Source: FunnyTimes.
Over at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus reviews some philosophical shenanigans around deciding who should and who should not be labeled a “philosopher." And they have a grand ol' time, gazing at their own navels, at each others navels, at the concept of navelness....

Hey! Over here, guys! It's us, the Professions! We've been doing that shit forever.

Yes, it's true. It's not a trivial exercise, but there is a well-understood process for developing exactly the kind of structure the philosophers apparently wish they had. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, and social workers are just some of the fields that have professional certification. And though the specific requirements may vary, the overall process is the same.

And the process is the same in all the professions because it works, and because no one has ever found a better alternative.  Generally, it runs like this:

  • You get proper training (through a separately certified educational program).
  • You intern to gain practical experience.
  • You pass special licensing exams (always covering but not only limited to the ethics of practice).
  • Congratulations, you have permission to call yourself a XYZ.

The reason for professional certification is to lessen the chances that a practitioner will cause harm or worse in the course of practicing their discipline. The training and interning demonstrates you have the necessary skills, and the licensing exams demonstrate you know how to practice responsibly. So once you're practicing and you fuck up, it must have been only either a true accident or entirely your fault. If it's your fault, a system of progressive disciplary actions are taken, based on how badly you fucked up. And all this is in parallel with and disjoint from criminal and civil court proceedings that might result from a fuck up.

And finally, you revisit the entire system every five to ten years, to check for bugs, problems, inefficiencies, and other imperfections.

How simple is that?

In the Loftus piece, Hector Avalos comes closest to independently discovering professional certification, but then they lose the thread again by going totally circular: "The words for "philosopher" and "scholar" must have meaning, so philosophers and biblical scholars working in those fields are best qualified to define them.”  Yeah, but the whole point of certification is to determine who is "best qualified.” Duh!

What’s worse, the given “experts” in a field aren’t necessarily the best qualified to define such terms, because they won't be able to see the forest for the trees. They need to be transparent an involve a small group of professionals, who understand how and why we certify experts, and who can help lead the philosophers out of the dense underbrush of their own discipline and into the light of the broader body of knowledge.

I doubt they'll do it any time soon,  though.  They're too used to their navel-gazing - much like the deformed feet of Chinese women of old - and cannot unbend their necks to raise their eyes.

To be honest, the same phenomenon exists in my own field of design. While there are certain fields like graphic design and industrial design that have some measure of licensing, engineering is the only true profession in the lot.  But there’s no overarching certification process for “design” writ large.  And every time someone tries to suggest it, they’re struck down using largely the same kind of arguments that Loftus’s post hints at in philosophy.

Fundamentally, though, it’s quite simple.  You go to a certified Xer (philosopher, designer, whatever-er) because certification implies significantly more robust and reliable results.

And considering all the crap philosophy out there (and crap design too), I think both disciplines could do with more certification.



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The Trouble with Normal...: Who wants to be a philosopher?
Who wants to be a philosopher?
The Trouble with Normal...
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