On Socratic Figures

This type of character, though unusual, is not unheard-of in philosophy. Unlike, say, history or sociology, philosophy has long reserved a place for the occasional talent who struggles or declines to publish. The tradition dates back to Socrates, who not only didn’t write but also disparaged writing as too rigid a medium to capture ‘the living, breathing discourse of the man who knows.’ (Plato’s words, of course.) Even as recently as the second half of the 20th century, many philosophy departments still employed a resident Socratic figure — a nonpublishing legend like Sidney Morgenbesser of Columbia or Rogers Albritton of Harvard — as if to provide a daily reminder that the discipline’s founding virtues of intellectual spontaneity, dialectical responsiveness and lack of dogmatism did not lend themselves naturally to the settled view of a treatise.

James Ryerson, “Unpublished and Untenured, a Philosopher Inspired a Cult Following,” nytimes.com/2018/09/26/books/review/irad-kimhi-thinking-and-being.html. Interesting brief review of Irad Kimhi’s long awaited book, Thinking and Being.