Oakeshott on Philosophical Debts and Professionalism

My debts, however, are many.  And if I have omitted to acknowledge the source of my arguments, it is for the double reason that in most cases I have forgotten it and that, since there are no ‘authorities’ in philosophy, references of this kind would but promote a groundless trust in books and a false attitude of mind.  A philosopher is not, as such, a scholar; and philosophy, more often than not, has foundered in learning.  There is no book which is indispensable for the study of philosophy.  And to speak of a philosopher as ignorant is to commit an ignoratio elenchi; an historian or a scientist may be ignorant, philosophers merely stupid.

Connecting this with Bradley’s comment (previous post) is worth doing.  I plan to do that soon.  For now, however, I will just note this point:  A philosopher is not, as such, a scholar.  I believe this.  But of course it raises all sorts of questions about current professional practice, the understanding of the discipline in the academy, etc. On the previous page, Oakeshott observes

Thinking, however, is not a professional matter; if it were it would be something much less important than I take it to be.  It is something we may engage in without putting ourselves in competition; it is something independent of the futile attempt to convince or persuade.  Philosophy, the effort in thought to begin at the beginning and to press to the end, stands to lose more by professionalism and its impediments than any other study.

Bradley on Philosophical Debts

Posting this now to comment on later.

It is not that in this book or elsewhere I lay a claim to original discovery. In these pages there is perhaps no result which I do not owe, and where, if my memory served me better, I could not acknowledge my debt. But when a man has studied, however little, the great philosophers, and felt the distance between himself and them, I hardly understand how, except on compulsion, he can be ready to enter on claims and counterclaims between himself and his fellows. And all I care to say for myself is that, if I had succeeded in owing more, I might then perhaps have gained more of a claim to be original.

Bradley, F. H. (Francis Herbert), 1846-1924. The principles of logic (Kindle Locations 24-29). London : Oxford University Press.

%d bloggers like this: