Thursday, March 1, 2012

Provocateur or Sage? Which Should an Academic Philosopher Be?

One cannot be both; one can only seem to be.

DMF commented in one of my posts about showing generosity to one's audience.  The discussion was within the context of my own work and, from my point of view, I was wavering on whether to make it obvious to other Dewey scholars that I was wading into a familiar scholarly battle or not.  If yes, then I planned to write something bombastic, e.g., accusing them of Oedipal blindness, and if no, then showing that we all are Oedipally blind without pointing fingers at anyone in particular.

Should one be a provocateur or a sage?  I have heard many arguments from both sides, and I will tell you that I see the former winning most of the time.  Being a sage is very different work, and although some manage a share of both, most appear to gravitate to provocateur.  What I have noted is that there are those who are fortunate enough to publish solid work and not worry about this--I envy them--and those that manage to find a balance between provocation and interest that gets their work published.  The latter tend to be good writers at the least.

I wonder if my readers have any thoughts on the issue?  For my part, my work cannot help but be provocative because I constantly drag the scholarship back to primary sources and unearth skeletons that few appear to what to talk about.  When the contemporary discussion passes something by, not even zombies can bring them back.

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