Serious Dilettantism: Reflections on an Impossible Profession


If we define “philosophy” simply as “love of knowledge,” then it is obviously a requirement for any serious scientific, scholarly, or professional pursuit – in whatever field. Philosophy’s relevance is also wide-ranging or even universal when we define it as the most basic or general discipline: the one that poses foundational questions regarding the nature and legitimacy of knowledge itself. Philosophy does seem, however, to have special pertinence for the human sciences, and perhaps especially for the mental-health-related disciplines and professions of psychiatry and clinical psychology. Physics and the biological sciences run up against such problematic issues as the nature of causality, the impact of the observer on the observed, or the essence of life; yet these disciplines seem able to progress quite nicely on their own, with little demand for philosophers or for philosophizing of an explicit sort. Fields like psychiatry and clinical psychology appear, by contrast, to have a more profound need for such input; and indeed, without self-critical philosophical thinking, they often seem to run the risk of degenerating (with little hope of escape) into one or another form of what philosopher of science Imre Lakatos called a “degenerating research program” – whether this take the form of reductionism, rigidification, or mere banality.

How to cite:

Sass, Louis. “Serious Dilettantism: Reflections on an Impossible Profession.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 4, no. 2 (2020):  1-5. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2020.0012.


Louis Sass
Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University
152 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020, USA

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