Our intrepid (or not so intrepid) "anonymous philosopher" claims that people contribute to the many books like this because they
can't get their work into peer-reviewed venues and lack sufficient talent to work on real problems, but feel the need to compensate for their deficiencies by claiming that publishing incompetent philosophy in popular forums is a noble enterprise.He goes on to say, in the comments--
The sad reality is that the volumes in the "pop culture and philosophy" series (either one) are saturated with poorly written junk philosophy. The entire enterprise is at this point a vanity project-- CV padding for those who couldn't (and don't) get their work published in the usual way, but somehow got a job in philosophy.Further down, he reviles the whole notion of "public philosphy." (Stung twice! My animal book is being published as part of Blackwell's "public philosophy" series.)
Now, now. A vanity press is one that just satisfies the desire of authors to see their names in print. The philosophy and pop culture books published by Blackwell and Open Court (the Viagra one isn't from these publishers) are hardly vanity exercises. There's a lot of demand for these books. I believe they're quite profitable, and those profits enable the publishers to put out less salable, more academic books. So, a "win" for everyone, surely.
As to why people contribute to these volumes. It would be just too silly to mount a serious defense of contributors and their credentials or motives. Just for fun, let's suppose Mr. Elite Philosopher is entirely right. Folks like us are too dumb to get our work into peer-reviewed journals or think about real philosophy problems. Well, what should we do?
Surely we shouldn't leave the field and seek jobs as chimney sweeps or garbage collectors. There are vast numbers of philosophy departments all over the place--community colleges, backwater branch campuses etc. It's got to be good for us to stay in the field and teach at such places. And if, while we're at it, we want to write fun, light essays for philosophy and pop culture volumes, why not?
I believe Mr. Elite Philosopher's field is political philosophy. What his academic work is like we'll never know, but if it's anywhere near as elitist as his blog, let's hope he keeps on despising public philosophy. I really wouldn't want this kind of thing to have any influence.