Philodoxers versus philosophers

Plato may a very important distinction between philosophers and philodoxers. A philosopher is a lover of wisdom (σοφια). He tries to align his views with what is true. As such, the philosopher is always engaged in a search (ζετεσισ), since he realizes that he has views are never as true as they could be. We will see him continually updating and revising his views as he comes to see the truth more fully.

The philodoxer, on the hand, is a lover of appearances (δοχα). The philodoxer doesn't care about being good; the philodoxer cares about appearing good, in the opinion of others. The philodoxer doesn't care if his opinions are true; he cares about whether others will approve of his opinions. (I recently had a philodoxer, on hearing what I thought about some topics, respond, "I don't see how you can get on in the modern world with those views!" He had no interest in whether what I said was true; it was enough for him to know my views are unpopular, and for him that was a fully sufficient reason to reject them.)

To the philodoxer, the philosopher's search appears senseless: it is easy to tell which set of views will make one popular with this faction or that faction: what one has to do is simply pick one's faction, and then adopt that faction's approved views. The idea that the philosopher is continually making progress towards the truth precisely by continually updating his views is simply beyond the horizon of the philodoxer: in the end, such a procedure is only sure to make the philosopher unpopular with every faction, since to the extent he agrees with some faction on some point, the agreement is provisional and not based on "being a part of the tribe." Since the philodoxer evaluates his views based on how much others approve of those views, the search for truth appears like a senseless flitting about in a search for approval from one group after another.


  1. Great post, Gene. I expand upon what you're saying here -

  2. But who actually does this? Is this some notion that we've forgotten about?


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