Intellectual Tourism

I remember reading an article that (to be purposefully crude), shat on the work of Steve Fuller, and demonised him (cos that’s really popular these days) as sophistry and all those words under the sun that aren’t serious academia, and came across the neat little phrase, “Intellectual Tourist”.

What’s an intellectual tourist? It wasn’t defined, but I think I’ll give a definition. Intellectual tourism is the act of giving the illusion of being genuine persons of learning; but merely propagate the old prejudices and putative beliefs and understandings without genuine scholarship or clarity of wit.

Intellectual tourism is something, I, shamefully admit, do. I’m not an expert in many things, and fuck, this is just a blog. Many people think of philosophy as the afterthoughts of those who were philosophers. Kant’s Critique is philosophy, Descartes’ Principles constitutes philosophy, the latest papers in Analysis (perhaps) constitute philosophy. But not the cigarette wielding, post-sex, sitting on the bed musings of men on the oversight of a body of literature, without genuine engagement of it.

Many people say things like “oh, philosophy doesn’t prove anything”, or “nothing is ever accepted in philosophy”, or something to the end of saying that one’s own research would amount to nothing insofar as the next generation would refute it, and there is always someone with a good and valid argument as to why its wrong.

I can sympathise with the view that experts who cannot agree with each other brings much unease to those who invest interest in them; and perhaps, that it is almost certain that the work of one scholar will be refuted or added to, or simply ignored in generations to come. But, it is much like, how I believe that, if one is to argue either for the existence of God, or against it, that they must be willing to dive into some very deep territory where the layperson is unwelcome.

The layperson who looks for neat little Nietzsche like phrases on google (which are nice for MSN handles, or clever looking email signatures – N.B. just for the record; I only quote things I have actually read for handles and signatures…); and not genuine interest in an issue, are not welcome to my table for discussion.

Does God exist? Well, that’s just as equal a question as is existence a predicate?

I like to fuck up people who are ingenuine in their thoughts and sentiments of their positions by asking them a question like “is there a number over a million?”, and they will look at me stupidly and say, “of course….”, confused they look at me, and I say to them “in virtue of what is that true? is that a priori synthetic? analytically true? a posteriori necessary? a priori synthetic? or a priori necessary? if it is the latter; does that entail tacitly that our natural language semantics presupposes the metaphysical claim that there are existential a priori analytic propositions?”

And if so, we could make a claim akin to the ontological argument.

Great philosophers are like great dragons; not coffee drinking career-mongers; but sharp witted, distinction-making people oc a character equal to the depths of their learning. I’m certainly not a great anything, for that matter; but increasingly I feel the need to point out the pretensions of those who whore themselves to those sunday rags.

The good thing about there being an Ivory Tower is that only those with ivory keys can come in. The equality, and justice of the battleground of reason, is that the most powerful mind wins, not the one with the most money, or the most status, or the biggest muscle. Academia, and the enlightenment ideal is truly just insofar as status is accorded not to the fundamental entitlement of opinions to all people; because you are not entitled to your opinion if what you believe is wrong. The search for the truth is a battle against others, on the one hand, we gain respect among peers, and on the other a lonely search into one’s own inner workings towards insights never had.

In a way, I’m kind of glad that people aren’t allowed to venture into philosophical grounds, and that they are intimidated by all the symbols and logic and formalisations; that makes us less prone to bastardisation; and infection by charlatans.

Intellectual charlatans must be purged. Even if that means, for me, I’ve signed a death warrant. I’d rather be a criminal in a just world than a hero in an unjust one…


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