August 16, 2013

Your Pronatalist Normativity Is Cramping My Einf├╝hlung

Every parent becomes a philosopher, but as the empirically minded and exasperated Justin E.H. Smith argues, every philosopher does not need to become a parent:

I hope no one will take this the wrong way, but I am concerned about the way in which the public display of one's parenthood is increasingly a part of the expected career path of the professional philosopher. I often hear of all the great new insights colleagues have had since becoming parents, how this has advanced their thinking about language acquistion and a priori knowledge, about the ethics of care, or the metaphysics of personhood. Sometimes the insights are theoretical in nature, while sometimes the importance of parenthood is celebrated on the grounds that it advances a philosopher in his or her practical project of philosophy as a way of life.

I have been explicitly told three times over the past year, by young philosopher parents, that there are philosophical insights that one simply cannot have without living through the fundamental experience of parenthood. That such an expression of pronatalist normativity exactly mirrors the sort of bias philosophers are by now so well trained not to express, about other quodlibetal forms the intimate life can take, is something that is surely in need of explanation.

Do it for the Askesis [berfrois]

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