Bourdieu and academical philosophy

Pierre Bourdieu studied philosophy early in his academic career (wrote his thesis on Leibniz), but later on “converted” into a sociologist when he went to Algeria and undertook empirical sociological research. In a sense Bourdieu was to value the ‘concrete’ over the ‘abstract’, and I think one can see his criticism of academical philosophy from that point of view.
Bourdieu was well oriented both in a philosophical context (for example, as I noted before, he appreciated Wittgenstein) and in a sociological context, and that is one of the reasons I find him interesting to read.

Here is a blog by Naxos which has several metaphilosophical posts on Bourdieu. One thing I like about the blog, is that there is activity and good discussions in the comments field. Below I quote a post, ‘Radicalizing the radical doubt’ [with Pierre Bourdieu]. In the comments field I found an interesting discussion between Naxos and monnoo. In another post, Butchering Philosophy, I debate with Naxos whether Analytic Philosophy faults as a discipline.

‘Radicalizing the radical doubt’ [with Pierre Bourdieu]

“Only if they were to take the risk of really calling into question the philosophical game to which their existence as philosophers is linked, or their recognized participation in this game ―and not simply through the displays of radical subversion in which ‘academic anti­academicism’ has always revelled― would philosophers be able to secure the conditions for a genuine freedom with respect to everything which authorizes and entitles them to call themselves and think themselves philosophers and which, in exchange for this social recognition, confines them in the presuppositions inscribed in the posture and professional position of philosopher. Only a critique aiming to make explicit the social conditions of possibility of what is defined, at each moment, as ‘philosophical’ would be able to make visible the sources of the philosophical effects that are implied in those conditions. This alone would fulfil the intention of liberating philosophical thought from the presuppositions inscribed in the position and dispositions of those who are able to indulge in the intellectual activity designated by the term ‘philosophy’.

Sociological critique is therefore not a mere preliminary, preparing the ground for a more radical and more specific philosophical critique: it leads to the principle of the ‘philosophy’ of philosophy, which is tacitly engaged in the social practice that, in a given place and time, is defined as philosophical. Because the ‘philosopher’ is nowadays almost invariably a homo academicus, his ‘philosophical mind’ is shaped by and for a university field, and steeped in the particular philosophical tradition that this field hands down and inculcates: subtly ranked canonical authors and texts which provide the ‘purest’ thought with its guidelines and references; problems arising from historically constituted debates, perpetuated through educational reproduction; recurrent major oppositions, often condensed into couples of antithetical terms, in which some people have chosen to see, in appropriately portentous style, ‘the binary oppositions of western metaphysics’, but which stem in fact, more trivially, from the dualistic structure into which the philosophical field tends, like other fields, to be organized. The radical doubt implied in recalling the social conditions of philosophical activity, particularly through the freedom it can give with respect to the conventions and conformisms of a philosophical universe which has its own common sense, could enable one to shake the system of barriers that the philosophical system has set up to block awareness of the scholastic illusion.”

via ‘Radicalizing the radical doubt’ [with Pierre Bourdieu].


About Dandre

Former student of philosophy, maths and literature. Now studying master program in sociology. Some thinkers of central interest include Ludwig Wittgenstein, C. G. Jung and Pierre Bourdieu.
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