“America does not think much of its philosophers,” Douglas Anderson writes in his introduction to Philosophy Americana. “We do not teach philosophy in our high schools. A majority in America have no idea what philosophy is about or why it might be interesting, if not important.”
Perhaps that lack of appreciation for philosophy is coeval with its beginnings when the ancient Athenians put Socrates to death. Anderson’s lament is clearly present from the supposed birth of Western philosophy, and vividly so in 1486 in Italian humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s discourse known as The Dignity of Man, where he states, “The whole of philosophy (such is the unhappy plight of our time) is occasion for contempt and contumely, rather than honor and glory. The deadly and monstrous persuasion has invaded practically all minds, that philosophy ought not to be studied at all or by very few people; as though it were a thing of little worth to have before our eyes and at our fingertips. . . .Thus,” Pico said six centuries ago, “we have reached a point, it is painful to recognize, where the only persons accounted wise are those who can reduce the pursuit of wisdom to a profitable traffic.”
So it seems today in America and so it has apparently been and will ever be. Nevertheless, Anderson hopes to open a discussion about how philosophy does and does not manifest itself in American culture, how its practitioners remain “invisible,” and largely misunderstood “in rural, laboring, underclassed, and unschooled settings.” It is not his intention, at least in this book, to take up the issue of race in a discipline as overwhelmingly white as Western philosophy. Yet this has been for me, a black American philosopher, a lifelong meditation, which I will attempt to address in this essay.
How to cite:
Johnson, Charles. “For the Love of Wisdom.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 1 (2021): 140-145. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0009.
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