Falling Like A Stone

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By Matt Zeitlin

The New York Times has launched yet another blog, this one on philosophy and it is moderated by Simon Critchley, a professor at the New School in the Continental tradition whose primary asset seems to be his working in New York City and getting lots of attention and pieces placed in popular publications. And while I’m not as hostile to him as Brian Leiter, it is still true that his initial post on “What Is A Philosopher” was much too cute and mostly insulted his readers’ intelligence without saying very much about the nature of philosophy.

The next post, by philosopher-cum-art critic Arthur Danto — who, like Critchley, is very well placed in New York media circles (he was the Nation‘s art critic for more than 20 years) — has precious little to do with philosophy, even broadly defined, and instead is an exploration of performance artist Marina Abramovic’s work at MoMA. Now, art criticism is valuable and Danto is pretty good at it, but for readers who might be interested in philosophy, it’s unclear what Danto (or Critchley) is doing for them.

Maybe the Stone will get better in time, but it should have been obvious to the Times‘ editors to give some deference to the mainstream of actual philosophical work in this country. And it’s not like mainstream American philosophy academia doesn’t have talented popular expositors: Daniel Dennett, Thomas Nagel, Peter Singer and Peter Unger, just to name a few. There are obviously plenty of others who could step in. The point is simply that, by using Critchley as a moderator, the Times is giving its readers a profoundly misleading view of what most people in this country who call themselves philosophers actually do.

For someone who is really trying to explain what philosophers think, check out my friend Ned Resnikoff’s newly launched philoblog.