What is Humane Philosophy and Why is it At Risk?

Let me begin with what may seem a very minor point, but one which I think reveals something about how many philosophers today conceive of their subject. During the past few decades, there has been an increasing tendency for references in philosophy books and articles to be formatted in the ‘author and date’ style (‘see Fodor (1996)’, ‘see Smith (2001)’.) A neat and economical reference system, you may think; and it certainly saves space, albeit inconveniencing readers by forcing them to flip back to the end of the chapter or book to find the title of the work being referred to. But what has made this system so popular among philosophers? A factor which I suspect exerts a strong subconscious attraction for many people is that it makes a philosophy article look very like a piece of scientific research. For if one asks where the ‘author-date’ system originated, the answer is clear: it comes from the science journals.[1] And in that context, the choice of referencing system has a very definite rationale. In the progress-driven world of science, priority is everything, and it’s vitally important for a career that a researcher is able to proclaim his work as breaking new ground. Bloggs (2005) developed a technique for cloning a certain virus; Coggs (2006) showed how certain bits of viral DNA could be spliced; and now Dobbs (2007) draws on both techniques to develop the building blocks of a new vaccine. The idea is that our knowledge-base is enhanced, month by month and year by year, in small incremental steps (perhaps with occasional major breakthroughs); and in the catalogue of advances, the date tagged to each name signals when progress was made, and by whom.
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DOI 10.1017/S1358246109990129
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