Bernard Williams on philosophy as a conversation

From “On Hating and Despising Philosophy”, published in Essays and Reviews, 1959-2002:

There is another worry that goes beyond the numbing presence of too many professional exercises. Analytical philosophy has, correctly, held onto the idea that there must be something in philosophy that counts as ‘getting it right’. In this, it properly rejects Richard Rorty’s model for the future of philosophy (or rather, as he sees it, of what used to be philosophy), the model of a conversation. Unless a conversation is very relentless—for instance, one between philosophers—it will not be held together by ‘so’ or ‘therefore’ or ‘but’, but rather by ‘well then’ and ‘that reminds me’ and ‘come to think of it’, and it is simply unclear who will stay around for it, and why. In fact, it is tempting to think that the conversation model is secretly an ally of professionalisation: the only people who will take part in such a conversation are those who are paid to do so.


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