In the Opinionator section of the New York Times on 5/23/11 there was an article by Justin E. H. Smith titled: The Flight of Curiousity. Here are a few paragraphs from it:
Must one be endowed with curiosity in order to become a philosopher?
Today, in the academic realm, at least, the answer is surely and regrettably “no.” When a newly minted philosopher goes on the job market, her primary task is to show her prospective colleagues how perfectly focused she has been in graduate school, and to conceal her knowledge of any topic (Shakespeare’s sonnets, classical Chinese astronomy, the history of pigeon breeding) that does not fall within the current boundaries of the discipline.
But how were these boundaries formed in the first place? Did they spring from the very essence of philosophy, a set of core attributes present at inception, forever fixed and eternal? The answer to that latter question, is also “no.” What appears to us today to be a core is only what is left over after a centuries-long process by which the virtue of curiosity — once nearly synonymous with philosophy — migrated into other disciplines, both scientific and humanistic. As this migration was occurring, many curiosity-driven activities — such as insect-collecting and star-gazing, long considered at least tributaries of philosophy — were downgraded to the status of mere hobbies. This loss of curiosity has played an important but little noticed role in the widespread perception that professional philosophy has become out of touch with the interests of the broader society.
Let me rush to qualify what no doubt sounds like a harsh assessment of the state of my own discipline. I am certainly not saying that, as individuals, philosophers will not often be “curious people,” in the very best sense of that phrase, but only that they are habituated by their discipline to make a sharp distinction between their sundry interests and what they do professionally, as philosophers. The distinction is as clear as that between Richard Feynman’s contribution to theoretical physics and his enjoyment of Tuvan throat-singing.
Here is H Robert Silverstein’s comment:
Philosophy is like my medicine, a malleable construct of sociology, objectivity, biology, knowledge, psychology, math, linguistics, literature, friendship, the law, and wisdom, etc., obtained through life’s education and experiences. It tends to originate in curious minds and is less about “how” and “why,” than the seemingly less interesting “IS” which is the the focus of Pragmatists like William James and Eric Hoffer. E.g.: how can one tell when the fox is behind the tree? The answer IS, you can’t tell when the fox is behind the tree, because it is behind the tree (and you can’t see it/know such). Philosophy is like a converging line that veers away from whatever goal is sought by other disciplines when those disciplines discover what is is likely the factual basis of a given question. Philosophy seems like one of those V-shaped snow plows through the unknown, with the piles of detritus on the side becoming differential calculus, behavioral psychology, economics, and the other disciplines as they hit the nail on the head or so appear to–I have my issues with (against) dark matter as I invoke the “ARMATURE effect” as to why galaxies do not spin their arms off. Technical discussions of philosophical approaches are mostly linguistics and logic, and seem a Tower of Babel to me being a mere periphery to the central issue of IS. Respectfully. HRS, MD