The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published a piece by one Alan Wolfe titled "The Forgotten Philosopher." The tag-line for the piece makes the assertion "Academe's specialization has left John Stuart Mill out in the cold," and the opening paragraph runs as follows:
Contemporary academic philosophy is riven by a great divide: Either you adhere to a Continental perspective identified with Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger that addresses big speculative subjects like the Essence of Being, or you identify with the British and American analytic school that puts a priority on rigorous logic, language, and meaning. What, then, are we to make of John Stuart Mill, who belongs to neither?
This is complete nonsense. First of all, Mill is easily among the most widely taught figures in philosophy (no ethics or social/political course can omit him); his work, especially Utilitarianism and On Liberty, is among the most frequently anthologized; the secondary literature on Mill continues to grow rapidly; and Mill remains central to contemporary discussions of utilitarianism and liberalism. In short, it's silly to say that Mill has been left "out in the cold."
Even more silly, however, is Wolfe's depiction of the "great divide" in academic philosophy. I leave it to the people who work on Nietzsche's metaethics and epistemology to confute the description of the "Continental perspective." Note the even more ridiculous characterization of the "analytic school"! Later in the article he implies that analytic philosophers are "interested in logic for logic's sake" Does anyone fit this description? Not Quine, not Putnam, not Davidson, not Searle, not Dennett, not Nagel, not even Kripke!
Note also that Wolfe's characterization of the "great divide" entails that academic philosophy ignores all ethicists and political philosophers (not just Mill). Yet ethics and political philosophy are at present easily more active subfields in the profession (and perhaps more respected, too) than philosophy of language (which has arguably been dormant, and certainly not central to the discipline, for twenty years). Just think: by Wolfe's description Rawls, Habermas, Nozick, Dworkin, Nussbaum, Raz, Scanlon, Walzer, Waldron, Sen, and Pettit have all been left out in the cold by contemporary academic philosophy!
In the 7th paragraph, we get an explanation... I think. Wolfe says, "I am no philosopher, so perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that Mill has gotten a raw deal from those who are." But I don't get it. Wolfe seeks forgiveness for his ignorance? Fair enough. But it's not his ignorance of what's going on in academic philosophy that's objectionable, but rather his willingness to assert sweeping claims about what's going on in academic philosophy while acknowledging his ignorance! That's plainly irresponsible and stupid. Unfortunately, it's a common kind of irresponsibility and stupidity. Why do people who are not philosophers nonetheless show no hesitation in making claims about the current state of the discipline?