Dan Hutto (University of Wollongong) has posted a nice, short little piece at academia.edu entitled, "21st Century Philosophy: In Crisis or New Beginning?" As my blog post from a while back, "Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Natural Philosophy" suggests, I very much agree with Hutto.
The general message of both pieces is roughly this: if we want to both (A) improve philosophy's methods, getting away from untethered intuitions (including empirically unsupported claims about folk psychology), and (B) help our discipline get taken more seriously and regarded as more relevant in the modern world (both of which, I think, we should want!), philosophy in the 20th Century is going to have to increasingly return to more naturalistic/anti-rationalistic modes of inquiry, increasingly drawing upon and interweaving with the sciences, rather than setting itself apart from the sciences as an a priori discipline (as analytic philosophy largely did during the 20th Century). This isn't to say that all forms of rationalism are bad, or that there is no room for a priori philosophizing. It is only to say that, in swinging so far in the direction of a priori/rationalistic methods in the 20th Century, analytic philosophy painted itself into something of a corner, both philosophically/epistemically (leaving little more than intuitions to motivate philosophical argument, with no clear tests of which intuitions reliably track truth), as well as socially, academically, and politically (distancing and isolating ourselves from the public at large, from other disciplines, and from current affairs). I, at any rate, have great hope that the 21st Century will be a "new beginning" of sorts for philosophy--a century of philosophy crossing disciplinary boundaries, drawing on the sciences, and drawing a more diverse body of philosophers, and different social and philosophical perspectives, into the fold. And indeed, there seem to me already clear signs of this occurring, with an increasing number of philosophers engaging more with the sciences, engaging more with issues of public interest, publishing in more public venues, etc.
How should we foster this new beginning? In addition to the above ways, I think we can do so in a number of related ways: by (1) continuing to question and move further away from methods (such as "the method of cases") that dominated 20th Century philosophy, but are increasingly seen as problematic, (2) increasingly insisting that areas of philosophy with empirical connections (e.g. moral philosophy, political philosophy, the philosophy of free will and agency) engage with, and be based on, a sound, thorough understanding of the relevant empirical areas, and (3) increasingly identifying a sound graduate education in philosophy with one that does not cordon off philosophy from empirical science, but instead draws upon, and merges, philosophical reflection and argument with scientific understanding (e.g cognitive neuroscience, empirical moral psychology, etc.). Or so I think. What do you think? Is philosophy in the 21st Century in crisis? Is it at the start of (potentially?, hopefully?) a new beginning? Both? Neither?