People often think of academics like Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer, or Hans Herman-Hoppe as philosophers, and as “radicals” because they cut against the cultural grain. More up-to-date examples might include Slavoj Zizek, or Jordan Peterson.
But one thing all of these examples have in common is that they are professors.
Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a professor, generally speaking. However, as Nassim Taleb has pointed out, there is a disconnect between reality and the assertions a professor can make. When an entrepeneur or an engineer posits a theory, he is materially punished if he is wrong. His business will fail, or his bridge will collapse. With professors — and here, let me clarify that we are talking about the “research professor,” the one that writes books and actually does very little teaching — there is usually no such check. Their paycheck is based upon deadlines, not about the verified truth of the theory posited. Their words are not warrantied.
This does not mean that all college professors are speaking 100% bullshit, but the environment leaves room for that. Since bullshit is a lot easier than real theorizing, the weight of incentives will gradually push even honest and intelligent research academics in the direction which might coincide with truth, but might not. In my opinion, Peterson and Zizek are both wrong. Entertaining, but fundamentally, at the core of their worldvies, wrong.
Philosophers have not always come from the academy, and in today’s age when the academy has been corrupted, it seems that the better ones are coming from outside the academy.
Some, like Matthew Crawford, started in the academic world, but then retired to the blue-collar world of automotive repair before writing their best works (from the perspective of blue-collar life, and critically about the beauracratic corporatism which has swept away much of the academic world). But many of the best modern philosophers were never professors or think-tank grease-monkeys in the first place. Some of them — like the aforementioned Taleb–are financiers. Some are entrepeneurs, like Stefan Molyneux, or Curt Doolittle. I have written about and referenced these people before, all serious intellectuals you are likely to have never heard of within the walls of a University.
But one name which might be better remembered than any of these — and yet, who is less well-known now — is a computer scientist named Curtis Yarvin, better known by his blogging handle “Mencius Moldbug.”
I am only beginning to touch the surface of his work, but it is startling just how many people his blog has influenced, and more impressively, the quality of the people who have taken it to heart.
For a gentle introduction to Moldbug’s work, check out the Distributist’s video on the subject:
I might do more commentary on Moldbug, neo-reactionary thought, libertarianism and monarchism at some point, but the critical thing that I’d like to focus on here is not the content itself, but the quality of the content, and the source of the quality.