In the comments section of Helen's excellent post asking how professional philosophy "affects our moral lives", a few commenters raised broader concerns about the extent to which professional philosophy is concerned with living a good life at all, as opposed to merely studying it. One commenter, 'Sigh', initially wrote:
[T]hose who suggest philosophy is about 'living a good life' are openly mocked...It is so sad professional philosophy is an endless race to improve one's reputation. It also creates a bunch of very unhappy philosophers: we are never done and have never achieved enough. All of this is especially problematic for those who believe they ought to lead a life that pleases God rather than people.
After I responded that it seemed to me that many philosophers do care about the good life--thinking, writing, and teaching about it on a continual basis--'Ambrose' and 'Sigh' clarified the concern:
Sigh originally wrote that "those who suggest philosophy is about 'living a good life' are openly mocked" and that instead "professional philosophy is an endless race to improve one's reputation". So the contrast here seems to be between two ways of life, one that is about living a good life and another that's about reputation and competition. You may be right that people publish papers on ethics or the meaning of life, or teach about these topics, but I take Sigh's initial point to be that, regardless of what our papers or lectures may be about, professional philosophers don't take seriously the idea that our _lives_ as philosophers should be about living a good life. We tend to be cynical about that conception of philosophy (as a way of life not just a subject matter). I realize that Sigh now says that he or she is just claiming that the topic of the good life should be a focus, but I think the original comment is about another and possibly more important problem. - Posted by: Ambrose | 02/28/2016 at 09:28 PM
I am a bit concerned that people care so little about the connection between studying the good life and living it. However, I don't expect this to be part of professional responsibilities. That is, I don't expect people to 'pay us' to live a good life. But I do think that as people who focus on this all day, there ought to be some personal and social norms that encourage us to 'practice what we preach'. One norm might be, "don't be self-aggrandizing"...As far as my concerns about being mocked, maybe this depends on what circle one works in. I have run into many big shot people from big shot departments who do mock this kind of thing. Marcus, do you disagree that applied ethics is looked down upon in the field as a whole? Consider, for example, papers published in top journals, few ethics papers, and almost none in applied ethics. So my perspective might be from a narrow window of those who work in top research schools... - Posted by: Sigh | 02/29/2016 at 04:05 PM