Resisting the Great Endarkenment: On the Future of Philosophy

Philosophical Inquiries 2 (6):93-106 (2018)
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Elijah Millgram’s book The Great Endarkenment takes philosophy to task for failing to note the kinds of creatures we are (serial hyperspecializers) and what that means for philosophy. In this commentary, I will complicate the picture he draws, while suggesting a more hopeful path forward. First, I argue that we are not actually serial hyperspecializers. Nevertheless, we are hyperspecializers, and this is the main source of the looming endarkenment. I will suggest that a proper understanding of expertise, particularly the requirement that experts (at least experts whose success is not readily assessable) be required to explicate their judgments helps to mitigate the threat of siloed expertise and endarkenment. Further, I argue that grappling directly with the institutional structures that encourage narrow and isolated hyperspecialists in academia can be a way to avoid endarkenment problems. The current landscape of academia, with its valorization of narrow disciplinary expertise, is neither necessary nor sustainable. In order to change this landscape, we need to understand how current incentives construct epistemic niches, and what we might change in order to reshape the ecology of academia.
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