I had been working on a post recently about how the adoption of the burning armchair by the Experimental Philosophers is symptomatic of larger collegiality and communication issues between philosophers. I was going to note how their logo, no matter how lighthearted, serves to frame the debate they want to have about philosophical methodology in combative and aggressive terms and how this just prompts their interlocutors to respond in kind.
As such, the opportunity to have what could be an important and new (actually, probably renewed from the '50s - '60s) debate about the course and nature of philosophy is often missed. Points are lost or purposefully ignored, arguments become less about substance and more about style, and an unwillingness to engage or understand the opposing project is engendered.
But, then I remembered how much I've always been amused by how Hume ends the Enquiry by, more or less cheekily, advocating the burning of books. And it was this remembrance of Hume that made me realize I was, perhaps, reading a bit too much about the collegiality of the profession as a whole into the burning armchair imagery.
Certain movements have a long history of selling their projects by declaring in grand, polemical terms the end of a certain type of philosophical methodology and the birth of an entirely novel and awesome approach to philosophy (examples abound; just think about the long history of empiricism). It's just what those who are really super-excited and confident about their projects do. Such excitement and (over)selling is part of what's cute about philosophy and sometimes it's part of what makes it fun.
And while it may not create an atmosphere that is especially amenable to being taken seriously by one's opponent, the burning armchair isn't symptomatic of larger issues. They don't mean anything by it other than trying to create a splash by dropping a polemical bomb. It creates a problem, but it's personal, namely, what do Experimental Philosophers have to do to get read charitably by their opponents after dropping said bomb?
So, the post, as previously conceived, was scrapped.
But, even if the particular example I chose for the earlier post didn't exactly work, I do think that professional philosophy has some real collegiality issues. There are certain accepted ways of talking to and about one another's work (of which examples will be given in a later post) that are embarrassing and stifle debate. And the idea many seem to have that philosophy is more hand-to-hand combat between positions fighting for their lives and less forceful dialectical nudging certainly also serves to create a hostile academic environment.
Of course, maybe I'm too sensitive or don't have a sense of humor or am naivé about what constitutes vigorous philosophical debate. Yeah, maybe I am all those things and blah blah glass houses, but, still, to be continued.