LessWrong: The word 'academic' is synonymous with 'irrelevant'
Do you think Sid Vicious would have told Keith Richards to fuck off if they met backstage one night and the Rolling Stones guitarist told the punk rocker he liked his show?
Maybe these would be better cases: Would Vicious tell Pete Townshend of The Who to fuck off or David Freiberg of Jefferson Starship?
Punk was a rebellion against what rock-and-roll had become, but it was still rock. So if you think the music industry sucks because it has wrecked music you love, do you still flip the bird to that music’s paragons?
To be honest there probably is some story out there about Vicious telling some legendary musician to fuck off. It doesn’t matter.
Whatever he might have done is relevant to a post that recently went up on the rationalist website, LessWrong: Prof. Jonathan Livengood spoke to one of its bloggers about the relevance of the website to philosophy itself, from the vantage point of academic philosophy.
And just in case the parallels aren’t obvious: academia would be the music industry, LessWrong would be punk, Livengood would be Freiberg and water would be wet.
This interview precisely addresses the core subject I’m trying to document on this site: the practice of philosophy on the internet. It’s worth talking to someone in the academic sphere about this because academia is where philosophy has ended up.
Academia is very good at making things boring and/or tedious, but if academic institution didn’t shove the Existentialists in front of a bunch of impressionable kids every year we really probably would be in a world where very few people understand “I think therefore I am” as anything other than a rather strange point to make in a staff meeting.
So if an academic (even an associate professor) is taking the time to discuss how a blog like LessWrong fits into the tradition he’s a part of stewarding, that seems noteworthy, like an American symphony putting on a performance of a still living composer or a museum holding an exhibition of some 21-year old painter.
I don’t mean to make any giant point about this other than to note that the LessWrong-Livengood discussion took place and saw print, so I’ll just wrap this up by quoting (a clipped version with a link added) this little bit that seemed the most salient to this post:
LessWrong: Last year you wrote, “I don’t think philosophers are especially well-equipped in virtue of their training to help out in the current crisis. … If we go out into the world and try to fix it playing by our usual rules, the result will be predictably bad.” This seems right to me, but the question becomes, who is filling this role? We don’t have literal swordfights, so it’s not a big deal if human capital is channeled into play-fencing. We do have these figurative swordfights though, so the question becomes, who is filling this role in public discourse?
Livengood: … It gets filled in a variety of ways, some by professional or near-professional philosophers by way of podcasts, but much of it in larger circuits are indeed filled by people like Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and then even less interesting people like Ben Shapiro.
Though now that we’ve come to this as the ending I can’t help but suspect that Shapiro (as our stand-in for Sid Vicious) probably would tell this guy Livengood to fuck right off.