Silly Talk about Philosophy

Shieva Kleinschmidt pointed me to Cosmic Variance’s discussion of silly talk about science. The thread contains lots of stories fromo scientists consisting of the silliest things people have said to them about science. So, what about a thread on the silliest things people have said to you about philosophy, or silliest philosophical claims you’ve heard made?

This could be a slightly more interesting thread than the science thread. After all, it’s unlikely that the silliest claim about science a scientist will have heard will have come from another scientist. On the other hand, making silly philosophical claims is an occupational hazard of real live hard-working philosophers. (Unless, as Austin would have added, it is their occupation.) Certainly some of my metaphysical views are pretty odd – though at least I don’t deny the existence of tables chairs and beer mugs.

115 Replies to “Silly Talk about Philosophy”

  1. I had a blast with this over at Cosmic Variance. I’ll be keeping an eye on your thread to see if I find anything particularly incriminating with which to taunt my philosophy colleagues and friends. Good luck.

  2. Not quite what you’re after, but certainly stupid…

    Tim Bayne and I have an article in the J. Applied Phil. examining a (supposed) disorder called body integrity identity disorder. Sufferers experience their body as having a limb too many: they have an intense desire for a specific limb to be amputated. The desire seems to be very persistent – decades – and causes a great deal of suffering. They sometimes amputate the limb themselves; there have been deaths. We argue that if, as it seems, they are not delusional or irrational, and there is no other way of treating them, then amputation might be permissible.

    No, that’s not the dumb part.

    I was interviewed about the article by various media outlets, including a commercial radio station (3AW). The interviewer asked me whether I thought that sufferers had this desire “because maybe they lost their leg in a past life”.

  3. This is not a story about me, nor do I know the exact details about what was said. But one of my profs told me about the following:

    In his first couple of years at my school a man came to his office. With him he brought a piece of paper that had a bunch of writing on it that was supposed to show some kind of proof: presumably about life, the universe, and everything. From what he gathered, the man first went to the physics department, who, after hearing what he had to say, sent him to math, who (big surprise), sent him to philosophy.
    My prof listened to what he said, and, sympathetically, tried to engage him in debate. He listened to what the man’s ideas, and would try various objections. Unfortunatly, the man was very much convinced that he had figured out something quite important and clever; constantly he referred back to the scribbles on the page. Things got a little frustrating for both, until the man suggested that perhaps such and such, because of blah blah. To which my prof replied “or maybe it is because you are a nut job!”, or something to that effect. Needless to say, the man did not appriecate this, and left. Several other profs have told me similar stories.

  4. Two days ago I had to go to an orthopaedic surgeon.

    O: What do you do?
    Enwe: Well, I’m writing a dissertation in philosophy.
    O: O? Philosophy? Great! I LOVE Philosophy! Did you read ‘Sophie’s World’, too? You should read it!

  5. One thing I worry about is how best to deal with nutters who send unsolicited emails with their latest proof of whatever. I usually just ignore them, but a mathematician friend of mine had a nice way of replying:

    “Thank you for your correspondence concerning blah. I will give your proof the consideration it deserves.”

    They’re happy because they think it deserves a lot of consideration so that must be what you’re offering; you’re happy because you can throw it in the bin without having told a lie.

  6. I’m suppressing the name of the person involved here, because it’s an actual philosopher, and that would make it just too embarrassing for him/her.

    I was browsing through logic textbooks recently, and came across, in a recent book by Name Suppressed, a long explanation of the evils of “the New Logic” (that would be propositional logic; NS seems to be a bit behind the times). One telling point: the New Logic promotes utilitarianism. You see, the central utilitarian tenet is that an act is good IF it causes the greatest overall sum of welfare. And “IF” is a propositional connective, one of the things studied by the New Logic.

  7. This is really Don Garrett’s story, but it’s worth sharing…

    The setting: Prof. Garrett, on the plane, sitting next to a middle-aged woman.

    She asks, “So, what do you do?”

    Prof. Garrett, “I’m a philosopher.”

    “Oh! What are some of your sayings?”

    Ba-dum ching.

  8. I have had several people (and I mean several) say something along the lines of ‘Philosophy, right. So that’s old bones and stuff?’

    However, my favourite example of people not having a clue what we do came at a birthday party a couple of years ago. A friend introduced me to a girl as ‘Aidan the philosopher’ (for reasons that weren’t transparent). The rest of the conversation went as follows:

    Her: Can I ask you a question?
    Me: Sure.
    Her: It’s a philosophy question, is that ok?
    Me: Of course.
    Her: There’s this guy I like. Should I phone him or text him?

    Do you think AHRC would give me a research grant to work it out?

  9. AJ Ayer once spent a confused evening talking with a woman who’d misheard his answer of “logician” to her question about his occupation as “magician”.

    —-

    A philosopher I know once received a phone call in his office, which went:

    Caller: “Are you a philosopher?”
    Philosopher: “Yes”
    Caller: “Well, I have a philosophy. Let me tell it you!”

    After some minutes, my acquaintance hung up on the caller. Subsequently, the caller, clearly angered by this, wrote to the University President to complain that the staff of the Philosophy Department were not willing to consider philosophies from the tax-paying public who paid their salaries.

    -

  10. At dessert with three people, two of them friends. The friends reveal to the new guy (what I had tried to hide) that I study philosophy. His eyes light up. He leans across the table at me, and says: “Really? So, do you believe in true love?”

  11. The comment was said pretty much in jest, but it’s funny enough to recount.

    I ran into one of my friends shortly after getting into grad school. He asked how the applications were going. “Great. I’m in.” He responds: “Dude, that’s awesome. You’re going to have a PhD in philosophy. You’re going to be like, qualified to think about anything.”

  12. A woman called the philosophy dept. at Penn, wanting to talk to someone about “realism and idealism”. I happened to be sitting in the dept. lounge so the secretary asked me to speak to her. She was very concerned that she needed to know more about realism since she’d been too involved with idealism her whole life and now needed to be more realistic. So, she thought that since philosophers know about both realism and idealism that we could help her, and so could I please suggest a book that would help her be more realistic and less idealistic? I suggested that she should buy Hilary Putnam’s The Many Faces of Realism and read it, that it was sure to help her with her realism/idealism problems. Unfortunatly she called back about 15 minutes later complaining that it was out of print and so she needed a different suggestion. I told the secretary to tell her she should then try Realism with a Human Face. We didn’t hear back from her, so maybe it helped!

  13. Guy at party: so what do you do?

    Me: I’m a philosopher.

    Guy at party: oh, cool, so can you, like, tell what I’m thinking right now?

  14. I noticed a lot of the comments come from people asking something similar to the question, philosophy, what are you going to do with a degree in THAT?”. Though I imagine being asked what you do as a professional philosopher is equally annoying. See this link for an funny little piece on the question:
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~schroed0/ForMajors.html
    When I have to tell people that I am a philosophy student, I always throw in something else: “I study philosophy and cog sci”, or “I am a philosophy student, and I mostly work on brain stuff”. The idea is to try and tie philosophy that you do to something that an ignorant common folk might more readily understand. Though, if you do straight M&E, this might be more difficult. I have been able to avoid many silly conversations by using this strategy.

  15. This is second hand. There was a public lecture at Brown given by a famous philosopher (I think Ted Honderich), and a member of the audience presented a challenge to the speaker’s thesis. He replied that his thesis could be better understood if a certain ambiguity was cleared up. “We need to draw the distinction between – “ he began, be he was interrupted by the member of the audience: “I don’t care much for distinctions.”

  16. A vauguely familiar 30ish man approached me: “You’re professor White, right?” “Yes” I replied, with an actual glimmer of recognition of a former student. “Wow, you were the best psychology professor I ever had!!” Smarting from the back-handest of compliments, I suppressed my laugh, smiled, and said “Thanks!”

  17. When I was an undergrad, I was one of the philosophy department reps during prospective student weekend.

    Needless to say, we didn’t get very many inquiries, but one of the prospective students who did speak to us told us his philosophy: “Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.”

    I guess it’s a little catchier than “To be is to be the value of a variable.”

  18. When I try to explain to people what I do as a philosopher, I figure they’re thinking “my tax dollars at work?” but are just too polite to mention it. Not everyone is though. I once attended a dissertation defense where the outside reader from the biology department asked the degree candidate to pretend that he was “Mary the tax-payer” and to explain to her why she should be paying for this.

  19. Neighbor: So, what do you do for a living?
    Me: I’m a philosopher.
    Neighbor: Really? I didn’t know there were any of those still around. I thought David Hume was the last philosopher.

  20. (Don’t forget it’s dangerous to get in an argument at an immigration desk)

    Immigration official: what do you do at university X?

    Me: I’m a philosopher.

    Immigration official: do we really need anymore philosophers?

    Me: Er…well…

    Immigration official: I suppose we do, philosophers keep dying, right?

    Me:….well,…(FIRMLY)…YES.

    (I’ll never know whether this was small talk or the official interview questioning for philosophers.)

  21. Five or so years ago I was on a panel of prospective jurors being questioned by an attorney for the defendant:

    Attorney: What is your profession?

    Me: I am a philosopher

    Attorney: Philosophy? Is that a “helping profession”

    Me: Its more like a helpless profession

    Judge (laughing): This is no place for jokes..your out.

  22. Not quite a misunderstanding, but quite terrifying… I was once at a very old fashioned barbers in Cambridge. The barber was shaving the back of my neck with a cut-throat razor. As I sat head bowed down with the blade on my neck he asked what I was studying. I said philosophy. He replied: “philosophy, young man? I saw a TV programme once about one of them philsophers, man called Nietzsche…”, me: “oh yes, he’s a philosopher”. Suddenly he stopped shaving and just held the razor at the back of my neck, “said on that programme that Nietzsche was one of them anti-God fellows. You’re not one of them anti-God fellows are you, sir?” At that moment I realised just how easily a cold blade can turn you into a slave moralist…

  23. “Janet, can you please call Prof. Woodruff at the philosophy department to ask for a confirmation of our committee meeting this aftrenoon?” “I can try, but I don’t think that Prof. Woodruff can make a confirmation, can he? He is a philosopher.”

  24. I notice a lot of these comments are about how people react when they learn that you’re a philosopher. I have a confession to make. I couple of years ago I grew so tired of those cocktail party conversations that I decided I would never, ever tell anyone, unless I knew that he or she was familiar with academic philosophy, that I’m studying philosophy. Nowadays when people ask me what I’m in grad school for, I say I’m a mathematical logician. It’s a bald-faced lie — I’m not particularly good at logic, and I will certainly never publish a logic paper. But it sure gets them to shut up. No one has ever asked me about the meaning of life after I’ve told them that I work in mathematical logic.

  25. Gillian’s post reminded me of the first conversation I had with an American the first time I arrived in the US as a student visa holder:

    INS guy: So what’s your major?
    Me: Philosophy.
    INS guy: What are you going to do after you graduate?
    Me: Go to grad school and become a philosopher.
    INS guy: A philosopher? Wasn’t that, like, 2,000 years ago?
    Me: No, no, philosophers still exist!
    INS guy: What do they do?
    Me: Uh, well, they teach … in universities … and they publish papers … in journals!
    INS guy: What do they teach in universities?
    Me: Well, uh, they, uh …

    And it went on from there — for another 10 minutes. The INS guy was clearly incredulous. They’re supposed to make sure you’re actually entering the country for the purpose that your visa was issued for. And there’s a presumption of guilt: the visa holder has to prove to the INS officer that he or she did not lie on his or her visa application. “I plan to become a philosopher” was probably one of the worst answers you could give in this kind of situation.

  26. Dad: So what are you going to do in the fall, Ken?

    Me: I’m going to graduate school in philosophy, dad.

    Dad: (incredulous): You’re going to do what???

    Me: Go to grad school in Philosophy.

    Dad: I thought you we going to be an electrical engineer.

    Me: Don’t you remember. I switched out of eginneering during my junior year.

    Dad: I remember that. But when you quit engineering, you told me that you were going become a lawyer. What happened to that plan?

    Me: I don’t want to be a lawyer. I want to do philosophy.

    Dad: What am I going to say to my friends?? “My son, the Philosopher?” “My son! — the philosopher!” How the hell am I going to tell them that?

  27. So what are you studying now?
    -Oh, philosophy

    Oh yeah, what kind?
    -Political philosophy, actually

    Isn’t that an oxymoron?
    -Ummm….well… we’d like to think its not, I guess

  28. When I applied for a NAFTA permit to teach in the U.S., I presented documentation to prove that I had a Ph.D. The INS official asked what the doctorate was in. I answered, “Philosophy.” Then a nearby, older INS offical chided the first one, saying, “All Ph.D.‘s are in philosophy — it makes you a Doctor of Philosophy.”

  29. An english major once told me that another english major told her, “hello!? we’re not morons, if we wanted to just read and summarize what the person said we’d be philosophy majors.”

    The english major (the first one) also thinks feminist philosophy is not real.

    (Disclaimer: The comical values of the above are subject-sensitive.)

  30. Found in the Bad Science column in The Guardian (which inspired the linked thread that inspired this thread in the first place):

    ‘And it would seem that the great British sport of moron-baiting is more popular than ever. Lots of you encountered philosophers. Guy Davidson was told that “science doesn’t tell you about the real world, only an ideal version of it”.’

    ——

    Also, I think it’s funny when people argue vehemently that intelligent design should not be taught in biology classrooms, and that they should teach that in philosophy instead.

  31. Many of these stories are funny, and I’ve certainly got my share of mistaken-identity tales (e.g. an uncle who is still convinced that my degree in philosophy will enable me to practice psychotherapy).

    But I’m worried. The prevailing tone here seems to be bemusement, exasperation, or even annoyance, but I take Mary Q. Taxpayer’s perspective seriously, and I’d like to know just how us philosophers are supposed to justify what we do, especially those of us being paid by the public. What do we say to the INS agent who asks if we really need more philosophers? That it’s crucial to work out the kinks in our latest theory of reference, and so we need every brain we can possibly get working on the job?

    I suppose this is a common worry amongst Ph.D. students, but I haven’t got a great answer at the moment, and I often find myself confessing to family, friends, and strangers that contemporary academic philosophy has little to offer anyone who isn’t a contemporary academic philosopher. It doesn’t seem as if the profession is troubled by this – shouldn’t it be?

  32. Re the chap above who describes himself as a mathematical logician to get out of “philosopher” conversations.

    A very good friend of mine who is a set theorist attended a Hollywood opening night with a friend of his, a minor actress. The photographer on the way in asked him what he did and he replied “I’m a logician”.

    The newspaper the following day had their photo with the caption “Actress Holly X with her friend Mr John Y, a magician.”

  33. Further to Gillian Russell, pretty much the only response I’ve ever had is “Philosophy, eh? Oooooh, gonna read my mind are ya?”

  34. Setting: Me with student in office hours

    Student: What do utilitarians do?

    Me: They believe that the total amount of “goodness” should always be maximized.

    Student: Do utilitarians really exist?

    Me: Sure.

    Student: And so they just walk around all day measuring the goodness of stuff? Who hires them for this?

  35. Setting: Me with student in office hours

    Student: What do utilitarians do?

    Me: They believe that the total amount of “goodness” should always be maximized.

    Student: Do utilitarians really exist?

    Me: Sure.

    Student: And so they just walk around all day measuring the goodness of stuff? Who hires them for this?

  36. This I heard from a friend of mine. He was in the chair when his dentist asked him what he did. He said “I’m a philosopher”. The dentist retorted “Well, I guess we all think about things, so we’re all sort of philosophers” to which he immediately replied “I guess we’re all sort of dentists too, since we all brush our teeth”.

  37. This might be apocryphal, but I think I remember reading that Bertrand Russell once received a letter from someone saying how much she’d enjoyed his writings on solipsism and saying what a good thing solipsism was and how she wished everyone was a solipsist…

    —-

    My favourite unanswerable question after I’d given a talk went roughly as follows:

    “When you drew that space-time diagram you drew time as a line. Why not represent time as a circle or maybe a SQUARE???”

    —-

    My favourite email from an ‘enthusiastic member of the general public’ began with:

    “Thank you for taking the time to answer the untutored question of a layman, and so help us both improve our understanding”

    And finished with:

    “My purpose in contacting you is to attempt to convert philosophy from a useless to a useful tool. The current failure of philosophy is that it has no accepted axioms, so it does not allow the employment of reason, which is the manipulation of axioms.”

  38. I’m standing in line for my US visa in New Delhi. Almost everyone is applying for a student visa – medicine, MBA, engineering, computer science, sure tickets to moolah. An INS official decides to send you to one of two booths, one of which rejects every application. This man can destroy my dreams of graduate study. I hand him my I-20. He says, “Philosophy?! When your father asked you what you wanted to become, what did you say?! Poor?!”. I got my visa!

  39. This is a story from Chris Lubbers at the University of Florida:

    Prosecuting attorney during voir dire: It says here that you are a graduate student in philosophy, Mr. Lubbers. What does a graduate student in philosophy do?

    Chris Lubbers: We analyze the strengths and weaknesses of arguments.

    He was immediately rejected as a juror.

  40. lady at cable company: So what are you going to school for?

    me: Philosophy.

    lacc: Oh! So, do you think the glass is half empty or half full?

    me: I think the glass is at 50% capacity.

  41. I get all kinds of wacky emails and letters from people (I think Berkeley is notorious for this sort of thing). My favorites tend to be the ones who claim to have solved all the mysteries (not just some special ones) of the universe, and who seek an appointment with me to give me the opportunity to see “the truth”, and/or to help “spread the word”. I recently got one such email (a rather long one) to which I politely replied that I was on sabbatical and would not be able to meet. This prompted an email to the entire department. Here is a snippet:

    It is understood that professors deserve their time off, uninterrupted. There are also matters which deserve immediate attention for a multitude of reasons. I am trying to stay busy with refining the editing of the 17-year book, upon which the continuation of the human species and the ecosystem depend. It would be universally beneficial if some necessary points could be made with the department, so that he next level of systemic function can be attained.

    The author also distributed a DVD-ROM to the department. I’ll leave the (multi-media) contents of that DVD to your imagination.

  42. I was once taking a cab from LaGuardia to Columbia and when the taxi driver asked me what I did, and I told him, he replied “ That’s kind of like dermatology. It doesn’t do much good, but you can’t do much harm either.”

  43. Question: Should philosophers be able to converse with non-philosophers about philosophy?

    Answer: Yes.

    Question: Does the burden of this responsibility rest with the philosopher or non-philosopher?

    Answer: Philosopher.

    We have some work to do outside our little university offices. No one knows what philosophers do? No one can understand what we research? We lie and squirm to escape the attention of everyone we meet in public places for fear that they might express an interest in us and discover the deep, dark professional secret? Pathetic.

    Say it loud: I am a philosopher, I am proud, this is what I think.

    Here’s a saying for you: Backbone is in short supply.

  44. Breakfast Dialogue, Early in Graduate Tenure

    My Mother: So are you still studying philosophy over there at Oxford?

    Moi: Yes, philosophy and mathematics.

    MM: But what’s the value in studying philosophy?

    M: Well, take this book title, for example — “Our Bodies, Ourselves” — it turns out that there is good reason to doubt the equation implicit in that title. Such is the manner of concern that I have learned to entertain, articulate and address as a student of philosophy. The mathematics part is even more interesting: Now I can tell you how a solid of revolution with infinite surface area and finite volume can be “real”. I couldn’t tell you that when I was an undergraduate.

    MM: [Face registers disgust:] See?! I knew you shouldn’t have accepted that scholarship.

    Rhodes Dinner Dialogue, Late in Graduate Tenure

    Sir [Lordship]: And what have you been studying whilst here at Oxford?

    Moi: Philosophy and Mathematics.

    SL: Mmm, right, I’ve never really understood what that is … so just what is philosophy, actually?

    M: Hmm, how shall I answer you with a single short sentence? … Philosophy is … the systematic justification of everything you already knew.

    SL: [Face registers happy surprise:] Ho! I like that!

  45. I’ve been reading Geoff Pullam’s The Great Eskimo Hoax (partly on Brian’s recommendation in an old post) and I think I have a new answer to the “what does a philosopher of language do?” question. Here’s my inspiration:

    The movie Robocop has a scene – described by reviewers as hilarious – in which a robotics company executive is machine-gunned to death in the boardroom by a massive security-maintenance robot with semantic pragmatic problems…

    Come now, man drinking a martini, surely you can see that issues in the philosophy of language are of life-or-death importance now? No? Well let me tell you the story about the zombies who can be deactivated using the correct solution to the Liar paradox. (You don’t think there is any such thing? But surely you admit that their could be? Shouldn’t the Taxpayers of Your Grand Country be protected against this possibility?)

    But to take Adam’s question a bit more seriously, how about this: one of the good things about developments in technology in sufficiently stable climates is that they can be passed on to future generations. X’s hard work on such and such a chip won’t just mean that she gets a smaller cell phone/bigger salary, it will also mean that her grandchildren get even smaller phones. But it’s good to pass on more theoretical, less practical achievements as well, for two reasons. First, it’s wrong to think of future generations as legions of materialistic simpletons. Humans appreciate small cell phones, and good food, and money, but they also want to know things and understand things. Not just so they can get more cell phones and food, but just because they like knowing and understanding, and hate being confused and ignorant. That’s the first reason it’s good to develop and distribute answers to difficult theoretical questions, even though the applications aren’t obvious. The second is that the future is a very uncertain thing and we don’t know what problems future generations are going to face. We probably can’t give them everything they need in advance. But if we can give them something that might help, it’s a better understanding of how the world works. And that’s what I think I’m trying for when I’m trying to solve a paradox, or confront scepticism and yes, even when I’m trying to iron out kinks in a theory of reference.

    What do you reckon, Adam?

  46. Both of my children are employed, professional philosophers, teaching and doing research at good Universities. Occasionally people ask me how this came about. What I’ve noticed is that about half those that ask seem genuinely interested about how my wife and I raised two philosophers. The other half seems more interested in learning how to avoid this happening to their family.

  47. from ‘Samuel!’: “Also, I think it’s funny when people argue vehemently that intelligent design should not be taught in biology classrooms, and that they should teach that in philosophy instead.”

    Why is this funny? Clearly the problem of demarcation is a philosophical one, not a scientific one. And the problem of demarcation is one I tell my students has ‘real-world’ value. Ever heard of the inquisition? Stalinist purges? Of course philosophy of science is just one sub discipline.

    But also, in response to all the posts that are concerned with philosophy being useless to tax payers etc., have you ever become familiar with ‘higher level’ science? I mean NOT technology, agriculture etc. If you poke your head into any ecology or evolution lab and ask what’s going on, they’ll be hard pressed to make a case that it’s good for the general public or some such thing. Wow. Look at that. This ESS model predicts the same thing that pop gen model does. Wow. It was confirmed by experiments with Tribolium beetles. Looks like population size really does have an effect on the evolution of altruistic traits in this system. You got a $300,000 NSF grant to figure that out?

    I’m more hesitant to say the same for a physics lab simply because I don’t know much about physics, but I imagine it would be a similar experience.

  48. from ‘Samuel!’: “Also, I think it’s funny when people argue vehemently that intelligent design should not be taught in biology classrooms, and that they should teach that in philosophy instead.”

    Why is this funny? Clearly the problem of demarcation is a philosophical one, not a scientific one. And the problem of demarcation is one I tell my students has ‘real-world’ value. Ever heard of the inquisition? Stalinist purges? Of course philosophy of science is just one sub discipline.

    But also, in response to all the posts that are concerned with philosophy being useless to tax payers etc., have you ever become familiar with ‘higher level’ science? I mean NOT technology, agriculture etc. If you poke your head into any ecology or evolution lab and ask what’s going on, they’ll be hard pressed to make a case that it’s good for the general public or some such thing. Wow. Look at that. This ESS model predicts the same thing that pop gen model does. Wow. It was confirmed by experiments with Tribolium beetles. Looks like population size really does have an effect on the evolution of altruistic traits in this system. You got a $300,000 NSF grant to figure that out?

    I’m more hesitant to say the same for a physics lab simply because I don’t know much about physics, but I imagine it would be a similar experience.

  49. I was talking to this very kind lady on the train. She seemed very sensible and quite interested in philosophy. The conversation then touched on Darwinism. (Bad idea, I know) She had her own views on evolution (uh-oh).

    Her theory refuting evolution was: Mass = energy (E = MC2). Energy is eternal. So the energy that makes up the mass of a contemporary animal, is the same energy that formed the mass of his evolutionary predecessor: so both the contemporary animal and its predecessor exist(-ed) at the same time. Evolution therefore did not take place. QED

  50. Robert recounted the following story above:

    This I heard from a friend of mine. He was in the chair when his dentist asked him what he did. He said “I’m a philosopher”. The dentist retorted “Well, I guess we all think about things, so we’re all sort of philosophers” to which he immediately replied “I guess we’re all sort of dentists too, since we all brush our teeth”.

    Now, this is pretty clever, and even amusing. But it’s sad, too, if it indicates that philosophers are so insecure about the status of what they do that they want to discourage the view that the practice of philosophy is accessible to the layperson who lacks a specialized technical education. I would hope that most philosophers would, instead, seize the opportunity to encourage the dentist, to explore his ideas, to help him develop those ideas a little bit more rigorously, and to display for him the value and fascination of our practice. (None of this being easy to do with a dentist’s hands in your mouth, no doubt.)

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