Does Modern Philosophy Fetishize The Classical Thinkers?


It seems to me that every time I come across real philosophers they have an extremely pompous view of non-academic, amateur, or overly modern or political thinkers.

In short, they relate everything to the greats: Kant, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, etc., and they seem to dismiss modern thought that’s more practical if it doesn’t seem sufficiently reverent of these works in every breath.

I see two possible reasons for this bothering me:

  1. I’m simply uneducated and unsophisticated when it comes to understanding how brilliant these thinkers really were. Their arguments really are timeless and should really be brought up in every single conversation about a related topic–even in 2012. In short, I need to study the greats more so I can be more like these pompous types who look down on my current view.

  2. Many of philosophers get off on not being practical and not speaking directly about things, and they bristle at any notion of us having improved upon, or evolved beyond, the great thinkers they have elevated to the point of fetish. They are ultimately less useful as thinkers, although they are masterful at performing elaborate dances that appear to be thinking of the highest sort–much like Demonstration Kung Fu vs. Brazilian Jujitsu.

First off, I’m not beyond admitting if I’m simply ignorant on this, and that the solution is for me to elevate my knowledge so that I too can become a philosophy snob. I’m cool with that. I’m there already in many other areas.

But I want to be right more than I want to look like I am. So if these guys are simply hand-waving in a very impressive way by constantly hero-worshipping the original works as a means of disparaging modern thinkers with more substance, then I’m going to call that what it is.

As with most things the answer is likely some combination of the extremes. I should definitely study the greats more. I should learn their arguments thoroughly, so I too can recognize when something is “Kantian”. No doubt there.

That being said, I have a strong suspicion that even as I advance my knowledge in these areas I will continue to detect from these types an elitist hand-waving that produces more heat than light. A group of people who dislike direct, open dialog on a topic because it’s so efficient, and because it fails to pay homage to their heroes in elaborate statements that seem to beg for applause.

I would genuinely like to hear from any properly trained philosophers–especially those who are more practically minded as well and can see both worlds and comment on each. What do you predict the outcome of my exploration will be? Will I realize that philosopher elitists actually do have the right approach, or will I ultimately conclude that the modern thinkers are standing on the shoulders of the greats and are actually producing the more powerful and useful arguments?

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