Stanley Fish Recognizes That Modern Philosophy Is Sophistry


'Now it could be said (and some philosophers will say it) that the person who deliberates without self-conscious recourse to deep philosophical views is nevertheless relying on or resting in such views even though he is not aware of doing so. To say this is to assert that doing philosophy is an activity that underlies our thinking at every point, and to imply that if we want to think clearly about anything we should either become philosophers or sit at the feet of philosophers. But  philosophy is not the name of, or the site of, thought  generally; it is a special, insular form of thought and  its propositions have weight and value only in the precincts of its game . Points are awarded in that game to the player who has the best argument going (“best” is a disciplinary judgment) for moral relativism or its opposite or some other position considered “major.” When it’s not the game of philosophy that is being played, but some other — energy policy, trade policy, debt reduction, military strategy, domestic life — grand philosophical theses like “there are no moral absolutes” or “yes there are” will at best be rhetorical flourishes; they will not be genuine currency  or do any decisive work.  Believing or disbelieving in moral absolutes is a philosophical position, not a recipe for living.'


  1. I'd say it's Fish (who is not a philosopher but a postmodernist literary theorist) who is the real sophist.

  2. Give a man fish and you increase his omega 3s.

    Teach a man Fish and you decrease his alpha 2s.

  3. Edward, Fish may be so. I'm just saying he has correctly identified the nature of the "philosophy game" as it is played today: top the other guys argument and you win, even if what you have argued is nonsense that you yourself don't live by. (Think Singer.)

  4. Gene,

    Just a heads up: You have written at the of your blog "omnes mundi creature." Rather than "creature" it should be "creatura." Just letting you know. Obviously, you don't have to allow this post to be published here, as it is not related at all to the content of this post.

  5. Stephen, *I* knew that -- it's the damned new Mac spell checker that automatically corrects your typing that doesn't know Latin!

  6. Stephen, it "fixed" pictura as well.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Central Planning Works!

Fiat Currency