Academic Philosophy as a Speculative Market

The state of academic philosophy seems to resemble the state of the arts market (and also the stock exchange in a time when the resources of the planet are being depleted and – as a result – more and more it is turning into a speculation market). In the art market, most artists don’t sell much, irrespective of the aesthetic quality or message of their art. Prices fluctuate more or less randomly. If, accidentally (or sometimes, by manipulation) prices of an artist go up, people start buying and, at the same time, hyping. A speculation bubble is getting off, quite independently of the aesthetic quality or content of the art.

In the sciences, there are some criteria for what constitutes acceptable science (at least for some time). In “softer” fields, such as philosophy, on the other hand, it is more or less a matter of power of the established people. However, from time to time, new directions will come up. This might be a process that is to some extent akin to a speculation-driven market. The retirement of some established old people or some power struggles and intrigues might lead to the rise of instability in the market and to the fading of some old bubbles. People might then start betting small amounts of reputation on certain new (or old) ideas and sometimes, these might start rising up, becoming acceptable as fields of publication. People then start betting their careers on the new trend.

The really interesting philosophical stuff, however, is likely to be taking place outside of academic philosophy, were people don’t have to consider their chances in the market. This does not mean that academic philosophy cannot, sometimes, produce interesting stuff as well, but it will tend to be bland and less fertile (and producing interesting, original stuff might be the end of the academic career of the respective author).


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