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In this article I argue that contemporary philosophy is lost in several important senses and that its recovery requires that we understand philosophy as a fundamentally creative endeavor; an expressive, evocative, imaginative, and visionary art; an art of life, like poetry and theater, music and painting, films and sculpture, installations and architecture, graffiti and graphic novels, ballet and basketball; a province of meaning rather than, more than, fact. I show how this changed self-understanding in turn would change the questions philosophers ask. And I argue that this view of philosophy requires a commitment to pluralism in both theory and practice.


expressionism, pragmatism, Dewey, Camus, pluralism

1. Lost

More than one hundred years ago in a 1917 essay titled "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy," American philosopher John Dewey wrote:

I believe that philosophy in America will be lost between chewing a historic cud long since reduced to woody fibre, or an apologetics for lost causes (lost to natural science), or a scholastic, schematic [End Page 35] formalism, unless it can somehow bring to consciousness America's own needs and its own implicit principle of successful action. This need and principle, I am convinced, is the necessity of a deliberate control of policies by the method of intelligence, an intelligence which is not the faculty of intellect honored in text-books and neglected elsewhere, but which is the sum-total of impulses, habits, emotions, records and discoveries which forecast what is desirable and undesirable in future possibilities, and which contrive ingeniously in behalf of imagined good.

(MW 10, 48)

Dewey meant this as a warning, as an identification of what to avoid. However, professional philosophers collectively ever since seem perversely to have taken it as marching orders—either by treating philosophy as a body of historical knowledge about a (typically uncritically) favored and select canonical group of dead thinkers (mostly white males in Greco-Euro intellectual lineages); or by making philosophy a mathematical field of symbols, axioms, inconspicuous premises, and rules of inference for demonstrating the irrationality of views other than one's own; or by formulating some ontological, epistemological, or ethical account of the world derived not from experimental inquiry and its deliberated results from multiple perspectives but, rather, from some mere manipulation of concepts and intuitions, grand generalization of particular experiences without attention to their origins or effects, or deep (often self-undisclosed) wills to believe and habits of desire.

Accordingly, a century after Dewey's warning, in my view, it is not the case that philosophy may be lost or will be lost. Rather, philosophy now actually is lost. To claim this is definitely not to suggest that there is no value at all to historical knowledge of past philosophies, formal systems of symbols, or wordplay about "reality as such." Rather, it is to suggest that by themselves these activities do not have imaginative value, a critical function, or a liberatory, practical wisdom–enlarging, and life-enriching effect. And the claim that philosophy is lost is also not a pronouncement that everyone who engages in these activities actually reports befuddlement by them or overwhelming lack of fulfillment in them. Indeed, it seems that many professional philosophers very much enjoy their pastime, profession, and paychecks (even as they may yearn for a little less work, some more professional prestige and recognition, and a lot more pay—something that is hardly surprising when one remembers that even hostages can develop affection for their captors). [End Page 36]

Like a Zen riddle, then: We philosophers and humanities theorists, where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves lost. What does this mean? It means that philosophy is lost (a) in the sense that it does not know where it is or where it is headed, that it is without direction, that it is not able to find its way, that it has become a body of knowledge rather than a way of life, that, in Dewey's language, it needs to be recovered (in part from itself) and reconstructed. It also means that philosophy is lost (b) in the sense that it is missing, absent, not on the scene. It is missing, increasingly missing, from higher education—where more and more it is underfunded, understaffed, downsized, and suffering through an intellectual afterlife as a multiple-choice humanities elective at the periphery of the curriculum (and sometimes so much at the edge of corporate; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and preprofessional missions that it is simply terminated). From an administrative or sociological perspective, it seems not unreasonable to imagine university philosophy departments soon mostly going the way of studies of alchemy, leisure studies, metoposcopy, and phrenology. Indeed, if viewed as a field of factual knowledge among many such fields represented in the contemporary university, philosophy may seem to exhibit most all of the features of pseudoscience: It appears vague, in principle irrefutable, and full of seemingly untestable claims; it lacks openness, reproducible results, and progress; it engages in contested, highly personal (and even idiosyncratic) claims about problems that themselves are equally highly contested; it is marked by an absence of established methods and criteria for their successful employment; and it yields few broadly shared judgments about which of its practitioners, book and journal publishers, and Ph.D. programs are top tier and highest quality.

But more important, philosophy is also missing from culture more broadly—from cultures beyond the discipline and academy. This is not a new problem, but it is a deepening problem. It is one that sometimes can almost make it seem that Socrates had it easy (OK, well, except for the hemlock part): as he entered into dialogue, even his least bright interlocutors agreed to examine critically all assertions and to accept (or at least so they said at the start) nothing just because someone or popular opinion or peer pressure or highly funded and highly manipulative political action committees say it is so. Today, however, thinking is so permeated by persuasion and propaganda, big influence and dark money, massive and multiple complexes of oppression and suppression, special interest marketing, the demand for short-term and even instantaneous results, anti-intellectualism, alternative facts, fake news, authoritarian pressures, myopic habits of [End Page 37] entertainment and social media, and deeply felt demands for safety from views that might seem challenging or different that there is little cultural space—plural spaces—for genuine criticism and imagination. And, perhaps unlike Marco Rubio's beloved welding—he claimed that the United States needs fewer philosophers and more welders—there is little support for the conditions, practices, and institutions in and through which philosophical life operates.

Finally, all this—this variety of ways in which philosophy is lost—has entered into the practice of philosophy itself (and this takes us full circle to the need for philosophy to recover or reconstruct itself). As Deleuze and Guattari (1994) observed, philosophy has not remained unaffected by the general movement that has turned concepts into products that can be sold and has transformed philosophy into sales promotion. (I need more graduate students in my seminars. I need to market my brand. I need to develop a sales platform for my book. There should be conference special sessions on just my work. I need to get an agent. I need to be in the news, in videos, and in heavily downloaded podcasts. My employer must see me as a high return on investment.) In this way too, and because of this, philosophy is missing. If philosophy were a young child, its picture would be on a milk carton—though I think that it is doubtful anyone would be searching for it. Perhaps more than a few philosophy professors feel from time to time what it was like to be (not a bat but) one of the last few dinosaurs running or lumbering around on earth during an earlier period of climate change.

2. Looking Around

As a matter of general formula (rather than concrete instruction), the remedy for being lost is to stop doing the things that lead to getting lost. Again, as John Dewey wrote:

The sort of thing philosophers of an earlier period did is now done; in substance it is no longer called for. Persistence in repetition of a work that has little or no significance in the life-conditions that now exist is a sure a way as could be found for promoting the remoteness of philosophy from human concerns which is already tending to alienate popular regard and esteem by reducing philosophy to a kind of highly professionalized busy-work. In the meantime, [End Page 38] there is a kind of intellectual work to be done which it is of utmost importance to mankind to have done, but which from the general human point of view does not need to be done in the name of philosophy provided only that it be done. From the standpoint of … philosophers, it may not be a matter of life or death but it is a matter of self-respect as well as of popular esteem.

(MS 102/58/10, 2000, 434; compare LW 16, 375, 380)

I realize, as Dewey did, that quoting dead philosophers is exactly the sort of thing that both earlier philosophers have done and present-day philosophers also do—probably even more so. And so I realize that this undertaking may seem at first glance to be a kind of persistent repetition remote from actual life conditions (except perhaps insofar as tedium is part of actual life!). However, I read this passage (and others like it) not as a proclamation but as a pressing challenge, a persistent and never fully met challenge, and as probably the most important challenge that faces any philosophical thinker who takes seriously time and place. If I put this challenge in Deweyan terms, it would read like this: What would it be to write anew in 2018 "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy?" Or: What would it be to write today a new Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920)? If I put this in Socratic terms, I would take this question to be: What does it mean here and now to live a self-examined life? What does it mean to strive to know thyself? I take the pragmatic meaning of these Deweyan and Socratic questions to be the same and am reminded that Dewey observed at age ninety that his concerns and his philosophy constitute a "re-turn to the view of philosophy put forward of old by Socrates." As he put it: "It constitutes search for the wisdom that shall be a guide of life. It marks a return to the original view of philosophy as a moral undertaking in the sense in which the moral and the deeply and widely human are identical. It diverges from the road which Socrates and subsequent philosophers pursued in their search" (LW 16, 364). I find that my path too diverges in many ways from the road of Socrates and also subsequent philosophers, including at times Dewey.

Before offering up my précis of "Reconstruction in Philosophy 2.0 (2018)," I want to stress three preliminary points. First, I do not intend my view as any set of directives for others. As will be apparent, that would be fully at odds with the pluralism I endorse. I believe that there should be as many philosophies and as many views of philosophy as there are diverse different experiences that give rise to and sustain those plural [End Page 39] views—a great many of which are simply missing in philosophy today, as Lori Gallegos de Castillo observes in her recognition of the ways in which this diminishes philosophy in "Academic Philosophy and the Pursuit of Genuine Dialogue: Embracing Radical Friction" (this issue). To think otherwise, again as will be apparent, would be at odds with the stress I put on experience—that is, plural and different (sometimes to the point of radical friction) experiences. Instead, I intend my view to be a suggestion, a story, a song, a painting—a painting in the way in which William James noted that different "philosophies paint pictures"—a sketch of how some things look to me combined with an invitation that you attend and look patiently and generously to see if this painting captures some ways some things look to you too sometimes—and a request that you show me a different painting, play me a different song, tell me a different narrative if you have one. And I intend my view also to be a tool or hypothesis, offered up in the hope that it proves useful and engaging to you, as it seems to be to me, for particular purposes (and with the belief that there is no all-purpose tool).

Second, I view all efforts to think ahead as tentative, piecemeal, and limited. There is no "forever" answer. My view is my view here and now. As times and places and I myself (and we together) change, I take it that my view of tasks ahead must also change—and that such change is anything but a sign of self-contradiction. In a life of contradictions, as Whitman understood, contradictions cease to be mere contradictions and the fodder for philosophical puzzlement or objection. Nothing I will say intends to be the end of philosophy, beyond philosophy, after or postphilosophy, or any sort of last word. It does intend to be beyond, or after, some particular philosophies but not philosophy—that is, philosophies—all.

Third, I see my effort here under the heading of "amelioration" rather than "solution." I am attempting to make headway on a cluster of problems. I do not believe that these problems can be "solved." Efforts to evoke moods, frame and investigate problems, understand the other, often contested ways in which different persons have framed and investigated different problems, formulate and implement responses, and contend with new problems that result from all this are transformative. In this, every reconstruction is a deconstruction, every inclusion an exclusion, every fulfillment a destruction. This is an arena for tough meliorism, hope but always, as William James put it, with butchery; it is not a site of metaphysical Progress or the self-realization of reason or the triumph of any side or prophecy supposedly backed by history, God, or even philosophers of the future. [End Page 40]

3. Looking Ahead

From a handful of observations, I draw some tentative conclusions. First, I observe that philosophy does not seem even to aim principally to discover new facts. When inquiry does aim to produce matter-of-fact knowledge and gives up concern with wisdom and morality, it becomes separate from philosophy—as biology and physics and economics and psychology and linguistics and anthropology and other disciplines have become separate—and as other fields, not yet named, no doubt will become separate in the future. Philosophy does not engage much, sometimes at all, in experimental inquiry or fact-checking, and it does not verify or falsify hypotheses about the world (Colapietro, this issue). (I am not suggesting that philosophy can or should pay no attention to other fields—indeed, just the opposite!—but only that it is different from them.) Accordingly, looking ahead, I recommend that philosophy engage in a bit of self-knowledge and self-liberation by recognizing and admitting that it is a fundamentally creative endeavor; an expressive, evocative, imaginative, and visionary art; an art of life, like poetry and theater, music and painting, films and sculpture, installations and architecture, graffiti and graphic novels, ballet and basketball; a province of meaning rather than, more than, fact. This changed self-understanding in turn would change the questions philosophers ask.1 In front of a Chagall painting, we do not ask "Is it true?" or "Where's the evidence?" Headphones on to listen to Kendrick Lamar, we do not worry or wonder "What did he really prove?" or "Didn't he assume what he needed to argue and demonstrate?" In front of a philosophy, instead of asking "Is this true?" or "Is it justified?" I suggest we ask "Does it illuminate, challenge, and expand my experience and render it more meaningful?" and "What happens, what is transformed, if I take up this philosophy, this narrative, if I become attuned to this expression and mood?" To say this is to agree with Vincent Colapietro that "philosophical consciousness is … dramatic to a degree frequently overlooked by philosophers, including ones who highlight the dramatic character of human consciousness" (this issue).

Second, I observe the obvious: there are a lot of different philosophies. If we take different philosophies as different claims about matters of fact, then we are forced to construe these differences as disagreements and then to wonder how so many (other) philosophers can be wrong as we set about a "critique" to correct them from the perspective of the one philosophy we believe to be, in fact, right. However (following the above first point), if we [End Page 41] view the many different philosophies as different personal expressions, evocations of moods, and imaginative visions, then we can construe philosophical differences as differences but not as, or principally as, disagreements in which at least one party logically must be wrong. In other creative endeavors we do this: Beethoven and Beyoncé do not disagree (such that at least one of them must be wrong)—they are different; Rodin and Donald Judd did not disagree—they were different; Sappho and Wallace Stevens did not simply utter mutually exclusive truth claims—they were different. In like manner, Hume and Hegel, Aquinas and Addams, and so on and so on do not simply dispute some matter of fact and so disagree—they are different; from different times and places they express differently different views of their worlds. Looking ahead, the consequence of this is clear: it is pluralism—pluralism and the relationalism (for many folks this term has higher public relations value) or relativism with which it is bound up. We find that we inhabit different worlds and that we express our experiences and visions and hopes differently—and from positions of very different power. In this sense, we should recognize that all philosophers are empiricists in the most basic sense of that term: all set forth views confirmed by their own experience, their own personal and different experiences. And there is no more reason to colonize or dominate or silence or eradicate other voices or strive for a single voice, a single style, or a single vision in philosophy than there is to strive for one voice in music, one school of painting, or one style of poetry. And the upshot of this is not that a plurality of philosophies must be tolerated, as if an unfortunate state of affairs. Unless a philosophy is to become no more creative than a paint-by-numbers affair or a Borges character writing a book that has already been written, it must cherish and sustain what is new and different; what reconstructs, restyles, and revisions; what moves and multiplies, invents and pluralizes.

As an aside, I realize that this will irritate some philosophers who hear or read the phrase "philosophy as personal expression" as "philosophy as mere personal expression." But there is nothing "mere" about persons or their expressions: the self is a complex, fluid social product and not a site of the supposedly private mind. And to those who want some surer basis than ultimately personal vision—perhaps Reason or History or God or Language or Being—from which to secure their own preferred theories, attempting to channel Jimi Hendrix, I can say only, "May you never hear critique music again."2 Similarly, to those would-be prophets who desire to be (and be regarded as) the final voice of Reason or Morality or [End Page 42] Justice or Equality, I can only suppose that the sorts of shortcomings that these thinkers believe they find in earlier philosophy will be strikingly and equally evident in their own work to subsequent generations playing new music in future, different times and places.

Third, virtually all neurological, biological, and psychological evidence supports the observation that in its attention and focus, personal consciousness—and so its expression—is unfailingly selective, partial, and perspectival. Moreover, the nature of this selectivity is anything but self-transparent or automatically evident—even to the self engaged in it. Our own points of view, interests, and habits frequently are unknown to us and are always incomplete and fallible. Accordingly, we should be wary of ourselves and our own stories. This establishes two familiar demands in philosophy. The first is "know thyself," which I take to be the demand that the self achieve some understanding about the selectivities at work in its vision of, and action in, the world. We each must ask: What interests, habits, practices, institutions, inclusions and exclusions, and powers are at work? Understood as an individual task, this is not enough, precisely because we should be wary of our own answers. We need also to ask how this question—or some other question—is answered by other persons, including especially persons who express different visions of the world. Is a person, for example, successful because of a practiced commitment to hard work? Is this success an individual achievement, a result of especially high ability and dedication, a measure of one's merit? Or is an individual's success due to self-unaware participation in systems of privilege, unequal opportunity, or oppression? Or is this success (and failure too) mostly a matter of unperceived luck?3 Looking ahead must always be genealogical and must always include contestation. And here the second demand emerges: be honest, strive for honesty, and be sincere. Investigate and acknowledge selective interests and emphases to the extent possible, and avoid what Dewey viewed as one the greatest failings of philosophy—the fallacy of unacknowledged selective emphasis: "Selective emphasis, choice, is inevitable whenever reflection occurs. This is not an evil. Deception comes only when the presence and operation of choice is concealed, disguised, denied. Empirical method finds and points to the operation of choice as it does to any other event. … Whatever enters into choice, determining its need and giving it guidance, an empirical method frankly indicates what it is for; and the fact of choice, with its workings and consequences, an empirical method points out with equal openness" (LW 1, 34). And I have tried to point out with [End Page 43] equal openness that selective emphasis is not always consciously selected, that it should not be primarily or exclusively described in voluntaristic or self-knowing terms—such as choice always purposefully made but simply not acknowledged due to deception and disguise. As Colapietro observes, "Forces and conditions, rather than simply agents or persons, help to enact a drama" (this issue). This inquiry into partial emphases is, moreover, a social, multiperspectival process and always a striving on behalf of an ideal never fully reached.

Fourth, I observe no warrant for the truth or falsity of any claim prior to, in the absence of, or separate from the results of testing that claim. I find a broadly pragmatic account of truth and justification itself verified by its results, by experience, and by its results in experience. I take this to go hand in hand with meliorism, that which rejects any metaphysical notion of progress (and often views pragmatism as just the epistemology of effective this-worldly meliorism): it is not possible to say in advance of, or without effort on behalf of, a goal whether that goal can and will be reached, if a different universe can be created. This orientation makes possible, I think, a genuinely critical and creative task for (some) philosophy, a task I discern in Camus's claim that all great philosophical artists dispute and re-create reality:

Art is the activity that exalts and denies simultaneously. … Artistic creation is a demand for unity and a rejection of the world. But it rejects the world on account of what it lacks and in the name of what it sometimes is. … In every rebellion is to be found the metaphysical demand for unity, the impossibility of capturing it, and the construction of a substitute universe. Rebellion, from this point of view, is a fabricator of universes. This also defines art. The demands of rebellion are really, in part, aesthetic demands.

(1956, 253–55)

Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on the one hand and magnifying on the other, is the way open to the absurd creator. He must give the void its colors. … It is not patient inquiry, the unceasing, sterile illustration of a thesis that I am calling for here. … The thesis-novel, the work that proves, the most hateful of all, is the one that most often is inspired by a smug thought. You demonstrate the truth you feel sure of possessing. But those are ideas one launches, and ideas are the contrary of thought. Those creators are philosophers, ashamed of themselves. Those I am speaking of or whom I imagine are, on the contrary, lucid thinkers. … Any thought [End Page 44] that abandons unity glorifies diversity. And diversity is the home of art.

(1955, 84–86)

I take critical and creative philosophies to be melioristic narratives that (a) evoke and imagine a future marked by that which careful discernment and appraisal at present show to be desirable and that then (b) propose or invent or create ways to realize and secure that future. (I note that any successful philosophical attention to means necessary to achieve ends in view will require that philosophers know matters of fact that lie outside philosophy. There can be no effectively critical philosophy of science or art or economics or race, for example, without substantial knowledge of science, art, economics, or race. Without this knowledge [now rarely a formal concern in philosophy Ph.D. programs], philosophy becomes only wishful rather than engaged.) As Dewey concluded, surely this kind of view of philosophy as creative criticism requires a strenuous faith, and surely it is a tremendously large task.

So, looking ahead, this is a suggestion or proposal to understand and engage in philosophy as a pluralistic, genealogical and honest, pragmatic and critical creative art. What happens if this suggestion is enacted? This suggestion carries with it far-reaching political implications, in part because the practice of philosophy so conceived requires far-reaching material changes in institutions, resources, practices and customs, habits of belief and hope, and social relations and vulnerabilities on which this practice would depend and in part because this practice in turn would work these changes. I take the practice of philosophy so conceived to be thoroughly at odds with narrow nationalism and jingoism, fascism, racism, sexism, and all the many forms of antipluralism, monism, and imperialism; self-certainty, epistemological smugness, commitments to the supposedly "natural," fantasies of individual and self-transparency, and myths of self-made selves independent of times and places; and fatalistic optimism and pessimism, which both conclude uncritically in advance of long and difficult action what surely will be or what definitely cannot happen or what is "just the way it is"—or even that the way things are must be described in only one way, someone in power's way.4


In this context of needed cultural changes, I conclude with four short points: an opportunity, a caution, a corollary, and a question. [End Page 45]

An Opportunity

Understanding philosophy as a creative art brings it close to other arts, both fine and not so fine. While university administrators and cataloging librarians may find it useful to separate philosophy from these other arts, I see no intellectual (as distinct from bureaucratic) purpose or value in doing so. A first point here is not simply that philosophers can take a philosophical approach to, or make philosophical use of, poetry and painting and drama and music and graphic novels and music and addresses. Obviously this is true (and similar to treating the Bible as literature or propaganda films as art or popular songs as potential soundtracks for commercials). Rather, my first point here is that these arts are philosophy—that Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Rauschenberg's White Paintings and Kushner's plays and Missy Elliott's music and Spiegelman's Maus and Lincoln's addresses are philosophy. As Robert E. Innis notes in "Filling the Hole in Sense: Between Art and Philosophy," art can be understood as an exemplar of philosophy rather than "a problem of or for philosophy to resolve" (this issue). Here I am also reminded of one of my former professors, John Compton at Vanderbilt University, who used to say that there was more philosophy in any issue of Scientific American than in the Journal of Philosophy. Intellectually, these things are philosophy; they are evocative, imaginative, critical searches for wisdom. They paint pictures. They construct universes.

This leads to a second point. Philosophers have an intellectual opportunity to invent and employ a wide, wide range of media: dialogues and dramas, photographs and films, poetry and autobiography, collaborative working papers and websites, public art installations and online magazines, interviews and multimedia content. The adoption and use of these "other" media make possible other messages, other philosophy; they can allow a philosophy to honestly make clear its personal, located, selective, not universal, different vision; and, at present, they would allow philosophers to address concerns about popular esteem and relevance. For academic philosophers, this points also to the need for several institutional structural changes. (Megan Craig, in her "Looking Back from the Year 2117: America, Philosophy, and Hope" [this issue], imaginatively highlights and addresses these issues, particularly in the sections on higher education and on philosophy.)

A Caution

Understood along the lines I have been suggesting, philosophy must resist any and all demands for instant, immediate application or short-term relevance. This does not mean that philosophy should resist being practical; it [End Page 46] means that what is practical must be understood in terms of a longer rather than shorter term. The value, and appreciation of the value, of many of the greatest creative endeavors is not apparent right away, at the moment of their completion, and these endeavors were not undertaken to solve some problem of the moment. In this, the practical and transformative power of great creative works of art is more like basic or theoretical work in the sciences than it is like applied science or technological application. Just as imaginative, curious, free, theoretical research in science produces "useless knowledge" that in the long run frequently is supremely useful (see, e.g., Flexner 2017), so too creative philosophical work that constitutes useless expression in the longer run often helps bring about vast change in belief and cultural practices and sometimes ushers in new worlds. In the face of now widespread short-term thinking and the budgets and reward systems tied to it, the ecology of philosophical imagination is more than fragile.

A Corollary

Taking a long-term view of creative endeavors means insisting that not all philosophers need be manifesto writers, petition signers, political and moral critics, and policy advisers. Just as there is room in painting for both Picasso's Guernica and Chagall's La Mariee, just as there is room in literature for both Ida Tarbell's The Business of Being a Woman and Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, just as there is room in music for both Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and Sun Ra's Somewhere Else, so too there must be room in philosophy for Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks and also Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and Suzanne Langer's Philosophy in a New Key. I think that philosophers who recoil from a view of creative expression and personal vision that commands "think this way" would do well to recoil equally from all fiats to "think only about this, not that."

A Nonconcluding Question

Gaps between theory and practice, between what is preached and what is practiced, are commonplace. When this concerns matter-of-fact knowledge, it would seem strange to reject or even doubt the knowledge simply because an inquirer who discovered or confirmed these facts failed to lead a life informed and guided by them. Is this the same—or different—with respect to gaps in theory and practice in matters of personal vision and expressive art? Is a philosopher who theorizes but does not much embody [End Page 47] a vision, a view of the world, a philosophy, really expressing some other philosophy, some other vision? I think that philosophers, creative artists, are known through their actions and products more than their words and intentions alone; we know them, like prophets and politicians, through their fruits. With that concern fully in mind, I am attempting in a pluralistic, selective interest–acknowledging, and honest, critical, and pragmatic way to evoke a vision of philosophy characterized by just these features. If we take up this view, we may be less lost, though I suspect that we would be surprised by what, including ourselves, we can remake.

John J. Stuhr
Emory University


1. I have developed this point in a related context in my Pragmatic Fashions: Pluralism, Democracy, Relativism, and the Absurd (2016), particularly chapter 1 ("Chance Vistas and Sincerity in the Cosmic Labyrinth") and chapter 2 ("Philosophies as Fashions").

2. "Your people I do not understand, / So to you I wish to put an end / And you'll never hear surf music again" (Hendrix 1967).

3. For a fascinating and compelling discussion of these particular issues, see Robert H. Frank's Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016).

4. Lee McBride, in his "New Descriptions, New Possibilities" (this issue), makes the case for the value of new and different descriptions—and even different descriptions for different groups of persons.

works cited

Camus, Albert. [1942] 1955. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Translated by Justin O'Brien. New York: Vintage Books. (Originally published as Le Mythe de Sisyphe.)
Camus, Albert. [1951] 1956. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. Translated by Herbert Read. New York: Vintage Books. (Originally published as L'Homme Révolté.)
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. [1991] 1994. What Is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press. (Originally published as Qu'est-ce que la philosophie?)
Dewey, John. [1917] 1980. "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy." In John Dewey: The Middle Works, 1899–1924, vol. 10, edited by Jo Ann Boydston, 3–48. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Cited as MW 10. [End Page 48]
Dewey, John. [1925] 1981. Experience and Nature. John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925–1953, vol. 1, edited by Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Cited as LW 1.
Dewey, John. [1949] 1989. "Philosophy's Future in Our Scientific Age: Never Was Its Role More Crucial." In John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925–1953, vol. 16, edited by Jo Ann Boydston, 369–82. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Cited as LW 16.
Dewey, John. 2000. "The Sort of Thing. …" In Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretive Essays, edited by John J. Stuhr. New York: Oxford University Press.
Flexner, Abraham. 2017. The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Frank, Robert H. 2016. Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hendrix, Jimi. 1967. "Third Stone from the Sun." On Are You Experienced? Reprise, ASIN B000002P5Y.
Stuhr, John. 2016. Pragmatic Fashions: Pluralism, Democracy, Relativism, and the Absurd. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. [End Page 49]

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