Saturday, May 5, 2007

Philosophers and Psychologists

I was once a Junior Lecturer in Classics at St Hilda's College, Oxford. One day the philosophy tutor, Kathy Wilkes, came back to lunch after a meeting at which philosophers and psychologists had tried to do business. Wilkes, maddened, explained the difference between a philosopher and a psychologist.

A philosopher, she said, will say: 'X is COMPLETELY WRONG! I disagree UTTERLY! ABSOLUTELY! CATEGORICALLY! X has failed to grasp the FUNDAMENTAL point at issue, which is . . . ' and will then proceed to restate the original position with some minor adjustment.

A psychologist, on the other hand, speaks as follows. 'I couldn't agree with X more. I think X has captured what all of us are thinking, X has made a vital contribution to the discussion, I really have nothing to add, I'd just like to enhance what X has said . . . ' and proceeds to set out a position diametrically opposite to that of X.

Wilkes died in 2003. (An obituary can be seen here.) I was thinking of her today when I contemplated the 22 posts in the Drafts Folder of this blog. The 25th is the third anniversary of my last suicide attempt; I've been trying to work out how to tackle the subject of suicide, which I wanted to have a blog of its own, Tender Only to One. I ran a search on Google for 'suicide' and the first 100 hits were sites that seemed to be run by persons of a psychologistical disposition.

Prolonged psychologist-exposure drives philosophers insane. The advice available online does not tell philosophers how to survive all the psychologists who agree with them on every particular. It does not point the philosopher in the direction of professions that are relatively psychologist-free. It encourages psychologists in their worst habits.

So there probably is a need for a blog for suicidal philosophers. It's important to know you're not alone. Among the throngs of people who are in perfect agreement with you and merely want to enhance what you say, there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions who think you are WRONG, you've COMPLETELY missed the POINT, who disagree with you UTTERLY, ABSOLUTELY, CATEGORICALLY.


Language said...

Thanks for posting about Kathy Wilkes. I had not known about her, and she's someone I'm very glad to know about. It's a damn shame she's gone.

Mary said...

This is reassuring to read, I can relate with your point of view. I've never had any philosophy classes, but I've read several philosophical writings like crazy since I was very young on top of surmising what I can from observations. Trying to explain "depression" in terms of philosophical views to others has been something I've had trouble getting across many times. (I think I'm stumbling with my response considering I'm commenting on the blog of a writer I admire immensely, ha.) Maybe I'm being pretentious assuming my concurring view will be helpful to you, but maybe it will be.