Volume 72, 2018
Philosophy, Community, and Critique
The Socratic Imperative Revisited
In The Apology and elsewhere, Socrates defends a vision of the philosopher as “gadfly”, an interrogator and social critic intimately connected to his or her particular community. In this paper, I examine the relevance of this model of the philosopher for the contemporary world, a world characterized by migration, transience, and dislocation. Specifically, I argue that current trends in professional philosophy, including the twilight of tenure-track employment and the increasing reliance on temporary forms of employment, make it difficult for philosophers develop community attachments, and therefore to discharge Socrates’ practical task. Beyond even such current trends, I argue that the professionalization of philosophy in general is not conducive to the Socratic model of philosophizing. In shedding some light of these arguments, I end by contrasting the Socratic model of philosophy with a more contemporary image provided by Deleuze and Guattari: the image of the nomad. I argue that this model of the philosopher retains the possibility of critique essential to the Socratic model, but also addresses the transient conditions that many of us find ourselves in today.