The Self-Defeating Silliness of Professional Philosophy.

Mr Nemo
4 min readSep 25, 2018

An Edgy Essay by Robert Whyte and Z

1. Introduction by Z

I personally think that Wittgenstein is a brilliant philosopher, one of the two or three most important philosophers of the 20th century: but I’m also pretty sure that he was incapable of laughing at himself.

In a recent piece, “Philosophy at a Crossroads: Escaping From Irrelevance,” Carlo Cellucci cogently and compellingly argues that contemporary professional academic philosophy has a serious problem of irrelevance.

But in the following reply to a collective cri de coeur (translation from the Old French: “cry from the liver”) from some of his most ardent readers, about Robert Whyte’s recent foray into philosophically anti-philosophical humor, “Why Philosophy Cares More Than You Do About[*],” Whyte equally cogently and compellingly, but also extremely concisely, points up another serious problem that professional philosophy has: self-defeating silliness.

Let me elaborate a little.

By “real philosophy” I mean authentic, serious philosophy, as opposed to inauthentic, superficial philosophy.

Authentic philosophy is committed, wholehearted philosophy pursued as a calling or vocation, and as a way of life; and inauthentic philosophy is professionalized, Scholastic, half-hearted philosophy treated as a mere job or a mere “glass bead game.”

Serious philosophy is philosophy with critical, deep, and synoptic or wide-scope content; and superficial philosophy is philosophy with dogmatic, shallow, and narrow or trivial content.

Now Wittgenstein was a real philosopher, hence an authentic, serious philosopher–so his inability to laugh at himself was merely a character flaw.

But nothing is more self-defeatingly silly than inauthentic, superficial professional academic philosophy that self-deceivingly believes its own bullshit and takes itself too seriously by half.

Check out, for example, the classic Bennett-MIller video above, “Oxbridge Philosophy.”

That’s from the 1960s, but updating it to contemporary professional academic philosophy is a simple task left to the reader.

And one prime symptom of this self-defeating silliness is the vocationally-induced inability to laugh at itself.

That’s the serious problem at issue; and no wonder there’s a “crisis in the humanities.”

You go, Robert Whyte.

2. “Has Rob Gone Nuts?,” by Robert Whyte

Some of Robert Whyte’s ardent readers, who can hardly wait till each new installment is up on Against Professional Philosophy, were quite taken aback by his latest ravings seeming more than usually actually about something. Usually there was the comfort of free-association rabbits, sewing machines and silk underwear-parasols and the restful reassurance that Rob was enjoying himself yelling joyful but futile prophecies and hearty but mind-numbing insights into the great cavern of the jolly interweb. But this time he was cracking a good old British grumble and seemed genuinely upset. Our Rob? What was upsetting him? An encounter with a scary philosopher? Russell Brand? Nor did anyone sympathise with him over Algernon the mouse; they said: “You’ve got a laptop, just use the track pad!” Fair cop, guv, but society is to blame. So Rob composed a summarised version of his edgy essay to explain what it was he was on about, knowing that sometimes splenetic fervour can get in the way of a good story. Thanks to Z he also got an Introduction about … well, you’ve already read that so you know what it’s about.

3. Robert Whyte’s Reply to the Cri de Coeur

That’s weird, I liked it a lot. I thought it was a simple piece. Let me break it down for you.

  • I am annoyed at the world, especially Apple for making a mouse that you can’t use when it’s being charged
  • I would not be worried about this if I were Russell Brand, because then I’d be a cool narcissist
  • I will tell you a story
  • Before I do here are some questions
  • The questions exemplify the self-defeating silliness of professional philosophy
  • The story is about how Apple plunged back into the dark age because it made a mouse that can’t be used when it’s being charged, which is precisely the equivalent of a wheel which turns square when you break an axle
  • Because my computer is rendered useless by this folly I read philosophy
  • Philosophers tell me there are now more of them than ever before but they are worried because they are increasingly irrelevant
  • Ho hum
  • Whatever gets you through the night… even hocus pocus
  • “They” say the “new philosophers” are Physics and Cognitive Psychology dudes
  • But they are not really, they’re just a fad
  • Because if you think anything is more than passing the time while procreating, you’re dreaming

That seems coherent to me.


W, X, Y, & Z, Tuesday 25 September 2018

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Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.