George Andersen

Philosophical Counselor

Archive for August, 2016

04 August

Philosophers are mistake specialists

Image by Ashley Mackenzie

Since Socrates, there have been times when philosophers have been perceived as trouble makers by mainstream society. The courage to think, the courage to ask questions, the courage to challenge the norms were perceived as an attack against authority, as a way of stirring spirits, or as a gratuitous display of futile pedantry.

Instead of seeing philosophers as trouble makers, why not see them as “mistake specialists”?  In his latest book Daniel Dennett elaborates:

“We philosophers are mistake specialists… While other disciplines specialize in getting the right answers to their defining questions, we philosophers specialize in all the ways there are of getting things so mixed up, so deeply wrong, that nobody is even sure what the right questions are, let alone the answers. Asking the wrong questions risks setting any inquiry off on the wrong foot. Whenever that happens, this is a job for philosophers!  Philosophy – in every field of inquiry – is what you have to do until you figure out what questions you should have been asking in the first place.”

Daniel Dennett.  Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014