At his blog Edward Feser has been responding to Thomas Nagel's critics (no, not me (yet)!). In response to Sober's review he concludes with the following sociological remark:
That, I think, is precisely what is going on -- the “presuppositions that Nagel is trying to transcend” run so deep in contemporary academic philosophical culture that it is difficult for most philosophers to get any critical distance on them. They lack, as Nietzsche might have said, the courage for an attack on their own convictions. And yet the evidence that there is something deeply wrong with the naturalistic consensus is all around them even in “mainstream” academic philosophy -- in the work of renegade naturalists like Nagel, Searle, Fodor, McGinn, et al.; dualists like Chalmers, Brie Gertler, Howard Robinson, John Foster, et al.; and neo-Aristotelians like the “new essentialist” metaphysicians and philosophers of science (Cartwright, Ellis, Martin, Heil, Mumford, et al.) and the analytical Thomists (Oderberg, Klima, Haldane, et al.). It’s psychologically easy (even if philosophically sleazy) to dismiss one or two of these thinkers as outliers who needn’t be taken seriously. But as their ranks slowly grow, it will be, and ought to be, harder both psychologically and philosophically to dismiss them.
Which is no doubt why the more ideological naturalists would very dearly like to strangle this growing challenge to the consensus while it is still in its crib -- hence the un-philosophical nastiness with which Nagel’s views have been greeted in some quarters. But Sober, to his credit, is not an ideologue, and is sober enough to acknowledge at least the possibility that Nagel is on to something.--Edward Feser.
Now it possible that we live in a philosophical age of ferment -- not unlike the internally divided Novatores, which rebelled against Scholasticism, that we now associate with the scientific revolution -- in which a future revolution in thought is being prepared. I like such tasks for philosophy (although I am pretty sure that I wouldn't want to live in some of the lands promised for us). Notice, however, that even if the anti-Naturalists gained a strong foothold within philosophy and overthrow the "naturalistic consensus," it is by no means obvious that promising resources are being developed for an anti-naturalistic science (you know with theory mediated measurements, experiments, people in white coats, etc.) It would be a lovely irony that just as philosophers happily embraced understanding their own discipline in terms of normal science (PANS; recall Mohan, and one of my responses) subtly encouraged to do so by various funding mechanism, which have rewarded folk like Catarina (and I, too), our problem-solving task would be to upend the normal science of other disciplines!
Of course, an alternative possibility is that (analytical) philosophy has relatively low barriers to entry for people that wish to challenge any naturalistic consensus (we merely need to show some facility with various baby logics, know how to string arguments together, et voila). And we shouldn't ignore the fact that from Wittgenstein (and his students) onward, analytical philosophy has been welcoming to all kinds of anti-naturalists (so that Feser may just be noting that we are less naturalistic than talk of "consensus" warrants). For there is nothing in our collective (disunified) methods or teachings that would enforce/stabilize a "naturalistic consensus."
Moreover, it's unclear that the outside world has any incentive to ensure that we have such a naturalistic consensus. For, from the point of view of the technocratic state and its heavy investment in STEM disciplines, it is unclear that changes in philosophical fashion, even when lavishly funded by anti-naturalistic private foundations, threaten any status quo whatsoever.