Our very own Catarina has taken sides in the exchange between Rebecca Kukla (who started it in this very interesting interview), and Jennifer Saul. But in doing so, Catarina (a) endorses what I take to be a mythic origin birth of philosophy. (I hesitate to disagree with one of the great historians of philosophy of my generation!) This matters because consequently, Catarina (b) overlooks plausible alternative ways of doing philosophy available at the 'origin' of philosophy. But even if I were wrong about (a) and (b), Catarina's argument (c) tacitly embraces optimal institutional design (whereas I am skeptical that we can attain the circumstances in which we would endorse those institutions). At one point Catarina writes:
As Rebecca points out, this argumentative model of inquiry is at the very birth of Western philosophy in Ancient Greece. Philosophy has always been a dialogue of people disagreeing with each other, and this is precisely what makes it a worthwhile enterprise.
First, I doubt that a "dialogue of people disagreeing with each other" is "precisely what makes" philosophy "a worthwhile enterprise." I believe it's the searching after certain ends (truth, illumination, liberation, beauty, good, etc.) and the various to-be-expected by-products it generates (wonder, joy, insight, self-doubt, critical stance, etc.) that make philosophy a worthwhile enterprise. Second, Catarina endorses here an origin-myth of philosophy that is quite plausible if we focus on Platonic dialogues, but less so if we take a more expansive view of the origins of philosophy. For example, Parminedes' poem is very philosophical (with important reflections on the nature of reason). It certainly has dialogical elements in it. But its predominant mode is a magisterial stance.
Now, fourth, Catarina implicitly anticipated the point by criticizing the "tendency towards doxastic conservativeness." Certainly this tendency can be a genuine danger and outright cost of a school (or a paradigm); one that I often raise concerns about in my posts. But doxastic conservativeness also can have benefits (including in increased 'problem solving' capacity and division of intellectual labor on shared concerns). Like other institutions it ought not just be compared with the ideal, but also with historical experience.
For, fifth, Catarina endorses "the kind of adversariality that characterizes philosophical debate at its best." Let's stipulate that "at its best" this adversariality is indeed "very productive." (One might, of course, ask, "productive" in what sense and toward what end?) But even if this is the best of all possible worlds, it is to be doubted that we often encounter the ideal of "philosophical debate at its best" in the flesh.For example, I read (perhaps mistakenly) Kristie Dotson as claiming that in practice certain lived experiences find no place in the existing culture of professional philosophy (cf Mohan's criticism). So, we might well ask if philosophy couldn't be done moderately more wisely and more inclusively under slightly different institutional norms. If philosophy is very difficult, why should we make matters more difficult for ourselves by valuing debating skills so highly?Finally, in the interview that started this exchange, Kukla rightly noted that as a discipline we should focus "more on the much more dramatic underrepresentation of non-white and working class folks in the discipline." A good place to start would be, I think, reflection not just on Dotson's position, but also on LK McPherson's.