Anti-Philosophy Mindset

I would call it more an anti-philosophy mindset. People in general regard philosophy as being a bit airy-fairy, and about abstract things which, again, have nothing to do with the practical life of people.
Has it always been like that? The fact is that during the last few centuries most philosophers in Ireland have been Anglo-Irish. They felt they had the right to think freely about the world. They felt themselves part of the European scene, and the Catholics thought that the people who had the right to think freely about the world were Anglo-Irish and priests.
Since then, we have in universities quite a number of Catholic or post-Catholic philosophers, and they are simply ignored by the culture at large. If you look at the work of Irish philosophers — people like Richard Kearney, Philip Pettit, William Desmond — they are never noticed on the Irish scene, never reviewed, never discussed. So in that sense, Irish criticism is a very poor thing; it is confined to the real world, namely fiction.

Desmond Fennell, quoted in Unthinkable: Great Ideas for Now, by Joe Humphries, pp. 55-56 (available from Irish Times Books).

The book is based on the Unthinkable columns in the Irish Times, which started on World Philosophy Day 2013 “as a small gesture towards imagining a different future (p. 1). The column aims to gather great ideas from various thinkers to illustrate the range of alternative ways there are to looking at and approaching the world, a breadth (the Desmond Fennell quote would suggest) that is too often passed over in Ireland.

In tandem with the launch of the book, Joe Humphrys of Unthinkablechaired a debate asking “Are science and religion really in conflict?”. See this Irish Times page to read Joe’s summation in Socratic dialogue form, to hear the full debate or to listen to the Irish Times Off Topic podcast which includes a discussion involving me, Joe Humphreys, Hugh Linehan and Fionn Davenport on Philosophy and Irish Life.

The Unthinkable column continues weekly in the Irish Times.

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