Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where are philosophers glamorous and influential?

There are not many countries in the world where someone who has taught Epistemology at a leading university, would also be featured regularly in a glossy magazine, and be a political mover and shaker.

Today's Australian reprints an interesting article French Thinkers are Men of Action Too by Ben MacIntyre from The Times (London). It contrasts the role of intellectuals in public (and political) life in France and the U.K.  Here is an extract:

Almost everything about BHL [Bernard-Henri Levy] is, from a British point of view, annoying: the vanity and showmanship, the white Charvet shirt unbuttoned to reveal the tanned chest, the film-star wife, the elevated language and the mane of unacceptably glossy French hair.
Hard as it is to like this preening self-styled "militant philosopher", I find it impossible not to admire him. From Bosnia to Afghanistan to Libya, BHL has been a cultural fixture, expounding, criticising, agitating; sometimes wrong, frequently pretentious, but always there, the modern incarnation of the intellectuel engage, the committed thinker.
British intellectuals are simply not engaged in the politics of international affairs in the same way. We expect our thinkers to be scholars, quietly toiling away to explain afterwards what it all meant, but not to hold forth on matters of conscience or affairs of state.

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