Philosophy Unmasked

A Skeptic's Critique

Laurie Calhoun

Philosophers have long grappled with the nature of reality without agreeing on how to go about finding it. Which view is correct: absolutism or perspectivism? How could we ever know?

Philosophy Unmasked is a subtly reasoned polemic that offers a critique and appraisal of analytic philosophy. It advances a metaphilosophical theory that expresses a skepticism about all first-order philosophical theories, contending that philosophy is a subjective enterprise, devoid of facts. Philosophy amounts ultimately to imposing one's values upon the phenomena with which one is confronted.

“A bracing gale of fresh thinking about the meaning and significance of philosophy. Calhoun’s subject is both the idea of philosophy itself and what has become of it in the academic setting. It is at once argumentative performance, metaphilosophical reflection, and razor-sharp critique of the academic status quo in philosophy today. Calhoun is the most consistent and unsettling skeptic I have read. This book is hard-hitting and controversial, but also well and carefully written, and cannot be read with indifference by anyone who cares about philosophy.”

—Barry Allen, author of Truth in Philosophy

“Excellent and extraordinary. Calhoun’s root idea—that at bottom philosophy is a matter of seduction—is, to put it mildly, disturbing to most philosophers. Her critique will not be read with indifference by them or by those in other academic areas where there are ‘experts’ and ‘acolytes.’”

—James Kellenberger, author of Relationship Morality

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Calhoun maintains that the academic, pseudo-scientific construction of philosophical "proofs" is misleading. Professional philosophers cite previous work and erect elaborate theoretical structures to persuade their readers; but such practice amounts to no more than seduction, since no one would find any philosopher's argument convincing unless one were predisposed to do so. In addition, academic philosophy has become professionalized to such a degree that skepticism among students is discouraged, and non-philosophers are excluded from dialogue, with the result that contemporary philosophy has become inaccessible and of little relevance to human life.

Interweaving observations on such subjects as art, psychiatry, and science with her own experience in philosophy, Calhoun renders complex ideas comprehensible in a unique style. She reconsiders just what makes some philosophical works "respectable," and, in the Epilogue, contrasts her speculations with the work of Richard Rorty, another thinker who has criticized professional philosophy. According to Calhoun, extricating oneself from 'The Cave' amounts to no more and no less than recognizing the actual nature of what one is doing, and that no one of us mortals has a God's eye view of the world.

Philosophy Unmasked combines theoretical and practical concerns in the manner of the great classical thinkers, offering social criticism in addition to metaphilosophical reflection. It is a provocative critique of the current state of academic philosophy, advancing an outlook that should change the course of professional philosophy for the next century.

About the Author

Laurie Calhoun is a published poet who teaches philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia.