Published Humanitas, Volume VIII, No. 1, 1995
The Catholic University of America
American academia is generally not friendly to systematic and “technical” philosophy. Although American intellectual culture has produced thinkers of international stature, it typically tries to get by with theoretical generalities. A lack of philosophical discipline, depth and continuity accounts for the ease with which inferior doctrines get their time in the sun.
The theory of knowledge has long seemed to American intellectuals an especially unappealing and arduous subject, but in recent years the winds of fashion have created a surge of interest in “epistemology.” That surge has produced criticisms of teleology, structure, doctrine, system, etc., which are seen as representing “violence,” tyrannical power, exhaustion, false security, or other denials of life. Sometimes these critiques have been salutary counters to rationalism, the disingenuous certainty of dogmatism and other evasions of real existence. More often they have been ideologically in- flamed and themselves blatant examples of the mentioned dangers. Frequently extreme and indiscriminate in their opposition to intellectual structure, they have brought to new heights the old resistance to philosophical discipline of any kind. Because so much of the recent epistemological writing has been abstruse, esoteric, lingoistic and distant from concrete life, it has at the same time fed the traditional American disdain for “philosophical abstractions.”
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