Much to the horror of certain philosophers of science particularly those who clung to the logical positivists' notion that science was universally objective, Thomas Kuhn proposed that the politics of science weren't purely rational, and instead the motivations of scientists might be bifurcated into the paradigmatic and the normal. This is covered in detail in Zammitto's A Nice Derangement of Epistemes (GB), Chapter 5: How Kuhn Became a Sociologist. Kuhn's philosophical thesis has made his work rather immortal in 20th century philosophy as a controversy.

Metaphilosophers (IEP) routinely engage in discussion about what constitutes philosophy. For instance, Deleuze and Guattari explore the topic thoroughly in their What is Philosophy?, though most philosophers of renown have taken a stab at defining what constitutes legitimate logical or philosophical discourse. While there are some who reject in their ontology 'metaphilosophy' (itself an obvious metaphilosophical choice), the state of the field of contemporary philosophy is such that there are journals devoted to the topic and books printed by the big publishers, Chicago, Oxford, etc.

The PhilSE question Why is Dawkins hated on by philosophers when his strongest argument against God seems to be a new one and is a philosophical one itself? (PhilSE) has provoked a claim that the motivations of philosophers is not a philosophical matter. While this appears to me to be a question that the Wiley's Metaphilsophy would happily entertain, perhaps I'm mistaken. Thus, what is the consensus of contemporary professional philosophers on the the social aspects of philosophical practice, and do they support or reject the claim that the motivations of philosophers is itself a question for philosophical discourse?

(I'm looking for a learned response with citations to support metaphilosophical claims, such as appeals to arguments of famous philosophers, metaphilosophical arguments, or empirical data regarding the practices of philosophers.)

  • The answer has to be a definitive yes. Psychology and sociology were originally PART of philosophy. And you citation of Kuhn, whose sociological evaluation of philosophical thought is itself definitive. For a more recent definitive instance, the Philpapers Survey is regularly cited here in Phil SE survey2020.philpeople.org
    – Dcleve
    Jan 6, 2023 at 5:42
  • @Dcleve As always, thanks for your contributions! After you read enough science and philosophy, it seems like an irrefutable truth, that complex discourse has nuance, and that it's difficult to throw things into the philosophy or physics, philosophy or psychology bucket. But then nuance is a skill... :D
    – J D
    Jan 6, 2023 at 17:03
  • Popper set out to define the boundary between science and pseudo-science, but he also held that the boundary between science and philosophy was undefinable, as the subjects bleed into each other.
    – Dcleve
    Jan 6, 2023 at 17:09
  • @Dcleve I didn't know that was a view articulated, but given that logical positivism failed to carve metaphysics out of scientific discourse, I guess is shouldn't be a surprise. Is The Logic of Scientific Discovery the best source material for his views, or is a later publication stronger? I can't see myself reading more than work by Popper given my reading list.
    – J D
    Jan 6, 2023 at 17:44
  • The simplest Popper book is his autobiography, Unended Quest, which is a pretty quick read, and has accessible summaries of his main areas of thought. Conjectures and Refutations, which is more bite-sized essays, is basically updates to Logic of Scientific Discovery, and Open Society 30 and 20 years later, and would be better than either of the originals if you want to dig deeper. Self and Its Brain is excellent, but got Popper dismissed/ignored by his colleagues subsequently. I have not read most of the rest.
    – Dcleve
    Jan 6, 2023 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


According to Richard Rorty:

The neopragmatist Rorty goes so far as to say the philosopher should fashion her philosophy so as to promote her cultural, social, and political goals. So-called post-Analytic philosophy is much influenced by pragmatism. Like the pragmatists, the post-Analyticals tend (1) to favor a broad construal of the philosophical enterprise and (2) to aim at dissolving rather than solving traditional or narrow philosophical problems.

That's from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on Metaphilosophy. Besides post-analytical philosophers, philosophers of antiquity, many Continental philosophers, and philosophers of critical theory often examine the motivation of philosophers and institutions. I don't know if it's possible to determine if there is consensus. That would require some sort of survey, but many philosophers have a view of philosophy that philosophy is more than concept analysis as D&G have put forward.

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