by Carl Dyke

is the name of a blog described as “a guide to living with your philosopher.” The current post addresses philosophers’ constant questioning of every little thing, diagnoses this as an occupational hazard, suggests being complimented that they find you worth taking seriously, and recommends a ‘safe sentence’ to use when you’re just not into being prodded about your premises and commitments.

Philosophers are every bit as weird as any Papua-New Guinean highlander, Kalahari bushman or stock analyst, so this ethnographic site is both inherently interesting and potentially critical to maintaining cordial relations with the tribe in question.

6 Comments to “Philosiology”

  1. I went to the blog, read the piece on colloquia, and found myself wondering if the various academic fauna described in the blog and comments are significantly different from those found in other disciplines.

  2. What the blog identifies is certain conversational patterns that have become so habitual (i.e., been so deeply learned) that philosophers use them regardless of social context.I suspect this happens with all professions, the only difference being the conventions that have come so deeply internalized. (This also suggests why an expertise based on long-time immersion in a field sometimes creates difficulties for someone who wants to communicate its insights to novices) But specialists of all kinds cultivate particular tics or gestures or habits of mind to get their work done faster and better. Just don’t ask them to communicate with each other.

  3. John, what with my interdisciplinary background I’ve had a chance to see most of the faunae humanitatis in their habitats. There are both genus commonalities and species distinctions, including in how central or peripheral various traits are to the categorical identity. So every Lit conference has its ‘philosophers’, just as every Philosophy conference has its ‘ethnographers’ and so on, but the proportions are roughly reversed and the exemplars celebrated or marginalized accordingly, with access to resource and reproductive opportunity at stake.

    Dave, agreed. Perhaps there’s also an epigenetic (or even genetic) elective affinity between certain interpersonal styles and certain fields, or variants within fields. At what point in our larval histories do we begin to evoke the characteristic mannerisms of philosophers, literary critics, ethnographers, psychologists and so on? Pretty early, I suspect.

  4. Carl, Dave, let me be more precise in my questioning. Is it your experience that, depending on field, you see the same types but in different proportions? Or are there types found in some fields but not at all in others?

  5. I think all types are found in all fields, but in different proportions and with different interactive valences. Kind of like the bases in dna, the classical elements in alchemy, or the humors in galenic medicine, the particular character of fields and individuals within them is a function of the relative proportion, arrangement and balance of just a few fundamental components. This is what makes cross-disciplinary simpaticos possible. I’m mostly being silly.

  6. Like Rameau’s Nephew, I believe that most of our social and professional life is dominated by types rather than individuals. It takes some degree of acquaintance or intimacy before those features cease to dominate our reactions to individuals’ behavior. But the same holds for graduates of this or that institution or program. I suspect that a trained musician or critic can hear the difference between a Peabody and a Juilliard graduate, or whether an individual is playing against type. But this aspect of typing is a very predictable consequence of specialization, which almost always follows from the affinities individuals have with particular fields: e.g. bibliographers in lit need to be detail-oriented and careful, and unafraid of seeming geeky; different period specialists in literature have affinities with the premier genres of that period, and so forth.

    But to answer John’s question, I think the types are contextual, and specific to particular subjects and fields.

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