Dear Bill (if I may),
I came across your interesting 2009 post on "The Dictionary Fallacy," and I would like to follow up.
I wonder whether you are aware of my recent work, Words of Wisdom: A Philosophical Dictionary for the Perennial Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012). Attached are the publisher's notice, plus an interview I did with the blog called "Catholic World Report." My own thinking about dictionaries -- and specifically philosophical dictionaries -- can be gathered from the interview, as well as from the Introduction to my volume, which can be accessed as the "Excerpt" highlighted near bottom of p. 1 of the UNDP announcement.
I would be pleased to see you mention Words of Wisdom on "Maverick Philosopher," and to learn what you think about my project.
Best wishes from a philosopher who can't seem to get himself to retire,
John W. (Jack) Carlson
Professor of Philosophy
Omaha, Neb. 68142
Dear Professor Carlson,
I am pleased to announce your book on my weblog which, at the moment, is experiencing traffic of over 2000 page views per day. So I should be able to snag a few readers for your work.
I read the The Catholic World Report interview and I find myself in complete agreement with much of what you say. For example, I wholly agree with the following:
CWR: Let’s begin with a Big Picture question: what is the state of philosophy today? I ask because philosophy today seems to be dismissed often by certain self-appointed critics. For example, the physicist (and atheist) Lawrence Krauss, author of A Universe from Nothing, said in an interview with The Atlantic that philosophy no longer has “content,” indeed, that“philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, ‘Those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach, teach gym.’” Why this sort of antagonism toward philosophy?
Dr. Carlson:So Krauss in a single sentence denigrates both philosophy and gymnasium. May we begin by remarking that Plato—who thought highly of both—would not be impressed?
Your question, of course, is a good one. A response to it requires noting salient features of Western intellectual culture, as well as key concerns of philosophers in the recent past. Over the last century and a half, our culture has come to be dominated by the natural or empirical sciences and technological advances made possible by their means. It thus is not surprising that there has arisen in various quarters a view that can be characterized as “scientism”—i.e., one according to which all legitimate cognitive pursuits should follow the methods of the modern sciences. Now, somewhat ironically, this view is not itself a scientific one. Rather, it can be recognized as essentially philosophical; that is, it expresses a general account of the nature and limits of human knowledge. But if it indeed is philosophical, we might well ask on what basis scientism is to be recommended. Does this view adequately reflect the variety of ways in which reality can be known? To say the least, it is not obvious that the answer to this question is “Yes.”
Lawrence Krauss is one of a large number (along wth Jerry Coyne, Stephen Hawking, et al.) of preternaturally ignorant scientists whose arrogance stands in inverse relation to their ignorance of what is outside their specialties. They know nothing of philosophy and yet 'pontificate' (if I may be permitted the use of this term in the presence of a Catholic) in a manner most sophomoric. Their education has been completely lopsided: they have no appreciation of the West and its traditions and so no appreciation of how natural science arose.
I criticize Krauss's scientistic nonsense in a number of posts showing him the same sort of contempt that he displays towards his superiors. These posts can be found here. His book is so bad it takes the breath away. If you haven't read it, you should, to get a sense of the lack of humanistic culture among too many contemporary scientists.
What you say about scientism is exactly right. I have made similar points over the years, but it seems one can never get the points through the thick skulls of the science-idolaters.
So I salute you and your book, and look forward to reading it.
Yours in the love of philosophy,
P. S. Retiring may be like marrying. Wait too long and you'll never do it.