Philosophers, unlike fish, do best not to travel in schools. Josiah Royce once said that the philosopher does well to imitate the rhinoceros, who travels in a herd of one. George Santayana, a rhinoceros among philosophers, an all-ivory and very elegant one, went even further in stipulating that the philosopher ought not to share unreservedly the spirit of his age, or be subject to its dominant moods. One of Santayana’s criticisms of Bertrand Russell was that “he could never shake himself free from his environment and from the miscellaneous currents of opinion in his day.” Insofar as philosophy implies the long view and the high view—and insofar as it does not, philosophy is a great deal less interesting—this would seem to make good sense. If the world is among those phenomena that are not better understood close up, then philosophers should indeed cultivate detachment the way English pensioners...

 

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