Why Americans Ignore Philosophy

The School of Athens (I’m in there somewhere, maybe.)

My experience has been the Average Joe or Jane (boy, does that date me) is scared silly by philosophy, (correctly) thinking it takes a PhD in the field just to have enough background to know what’s being discussed.

This is largely the fault (blame game here) of the Modern Philosophers, who sneer at the booshwahzie for being Philistines with “ordinary” mental processes.

Once upon a time (a few millennia back), “philosophy” was a study made by those who could afford it, which informed them how to live their lives. Stoics, Epicureans, Cynics, and such were not just schools of thought but schools of action. Somehow since the so-called “Enlightenment”, Philosophy became divorced from living a good life and became the plaything of those prone to building castles in Spain (so to speak).

This is the attitude I have seen among My Fellow Americans, and I am hoping those decadent Europeans are different. Hope. Hope.

This is not to say that Yanks are incapable of thinking about philosophy (though recent political developments would tend to say they are incapable). Mortimer Adler once tried to get America interested in The Great Books of the Western World, and was immediately decried by the self-anointed intelligentsia as “middle-brow piffle”. Recently, I heard of something called “Socrates Café”, with the same end. (Don’t know anything about it, really).

But, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see little centers of thought where ordinary people wrote ordinary essays for each other, like it used to be.

Where is the new Montaigne? Or Bacon? Or Wittgenstein? (Yes, I know, buried deep in the electronic bowels of the highly ephemeral Internet.)