Philosophy is about craziness

From John Holbo at Crooked Timber, writing about Green Lantern and philosophy:

Philosophy really is, substantially, about craziness and the peculiarly stable attraction of absurd and apparently stupid ideas and attitudes.

I was surprised to find that I sort of agree with this provocative claim.  I like academic philosophy a lot — particularly that strange sand-shifting-under-you feeling when you finally understand that a question or problem that initially appeared stupid or content-free is, in fact, difficult and perhaps even deep.

3 thoughts on “Philosophy is about craziness

  1. True says:

    Um, but maybe the ideas in question really are stupid. Having gone to college A LOT, I have to borrow a quote from “Dangerous Liaisons;”
    “Like most intellectuals, he was intensely stupid.”
    I am referring to academics whose entire career involves inventing catchy theories ( & publishing said theories), that appear to be meaningless and in fact, are meaningless, except for a blandishment here and some common sense added there. But philosophy, I actually like.
    Most of the money I spent on a bachelors & masters degree was a waste, except that now I can SAY I have them. Whoopee!

  2. Anon. IV says:

    Indeed most philosophy — be it the modern academic stuff or the purportedly Great Books that too many undergraduates are still subjected to — illustrates Whitehead’s rule that “when a mathematical or philosophical author writes with a misty profundity, he is talking nonsense”. (Probably true outside math and philosophy too but Whitehead didn’t have as much direct evidence there.)

  3. Richard Séguin says:

    Beautiful expression: “particularly that strange sand-shifting-under-you feeling when you finally understand that a question or problem that initially appeared stupid or content-free is, in fact, difficult and perhaps even deep.”

    I took Being and Nothingness off the shelf for the first time in many years and looked at random pages. Every single page is packed with intricate arguments regarding the nature of being, self, nothingness, time, etc. These are topics that most people never dwell on, but Sartre’s analysis does impress one that these seemingly empty questions really are complex puzzles that simultaneously beg to be answered and induce some amount of real emotional uneasiness. Personally, I’m more comfortable with mathematical argument and proof, but I can admire people who are willing to dive so deeply into this slightly more slippery realm.

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