Think Piece:
Armchair Speculation
10 June 2014

¶ At 3 Quarks Daily, Charlie Huenemann offers a spirited defense of “armchair speculation”— and of philosophers generally. We must have missed that they were under attack. Or perhaps we’re right to wonder just why Huenemann puts philosophers in those armchairs.  It has always been our understanding that “armchair speculation” is the lazy pursuit of “just-so” stories that explain matters about which the speculator is at best only partially informed. For Huenemann, the armchair is a great place for “just thinking hard,” and we’re all for that!

The problem is, how do you know when you’re well-enough informed enough to think about something? It’s a problem, because you never really do know. In the end, the test of your competence must be a piece of writing, or remarks that someone else transcribes, so that other people can assess your thought.

¶ In a related key, Frank Bruni sings the praises of solitude, especially for political figures who aren’t likely to enjoy much of it. Just what a politician is supposed to think about in rare quiet moments he doesn’t say; perhaps nothing special, nothing that any intelligent human being doesn’t have to think about. One thing is certain: public figures are going to have to learn, as a group, how to retract from the mindless focus of television.

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