Mar 14, 2023

against descriptive projects

Becca Rothfeld, on her hiatus from academic philosophy while she joins WaPo as book critic:

Will I miss academic philosophy? Yes, of course. I will miss my peers and mentors, who are meticulous and exacting, and the culture of lively argument that they jointly create. I will miss reading groups, although I’m perhaps overly optimistic about my ability to convince “civilians” to read Kant with me out there in the wild. I will certainly miss teaching undergraduates, which has been one of the best parts of graduate school. Above all, I will miss the discipline’s commitment to rendering judgment; at a time when ever more humanistic disciplines have abandoned evaluation in favor of various descriptive projects — historicizing, contextualizing — I always found philosophy’s emphasis on assigning values and making prescriptions refreshing. Not for a moment does it pretend to be a social science. There’s nothing wrong with social science, of course, but there is something wrong with the notion that all the humanities have to LARP as sociology all the time.