Professional Philosophers

RP 001 () / Commentary

People who don’t know anything about philosophy courses are likely to be astonished and dismayed by their effects. The main thing they will notice is that the philosophy student acquires a very mannered way of speaking and a knack of shrugging off serious ideas with half frivolous complaints about the words in which they are expressed.

It is not surprising if non-philosophers come to see philosophers as a self-perpetuating clique, like freemasons. It sometimes looks very much as though the professors are guardians of meaningless rituals, who force the eager young flatterers who surround them to prove their devotion by undergoing ordeals – degrees, fellowship exams, and so on; and if the candidate survives these he wins a ‘license to practise his trade and mystery’ and naturally acquires a personal interest in maintaining the prestige and exclusiveness of the clique.