Being an autodidact in philosophy, while academically undertaking a Major in Political Science, can I be considered a philosopher? Not by entitlement, but by the notion that one creates and studies the philosophical world view, as anybody of such a field does regardless of academic degrees. I am so disturbed with some comments that it is only through credentials that one becomes a philosopher, that I would would like to defy and counter this confined notion by proving that it is, indeed, not the only means. Thus I require supporting views on this topic. So, once again, can I be considered a philosopher whilst also being an autodidact?

Philosophy is a love of wisdom and a philosopher is one who both loves wisdom and is possessed of some. There are plenty of people with philosophy degrees whom I would hesitate to call philosophers and there are plenty of folks who have never taken a course in philosophy whom I would be happy to recognize as part of the Socrates guild. Given this analysis, I don't believe a philosopher would worry about whether or not he or she could be considered a philosopher.

What do you philosophers think of when non-philosophers step into your turf? Are "pop-philosophers" (for lack of a better term, I don't see the "man on the street" going hooplah over what Putnam or Kripke says) worth reading or do they have any good philosophical value at all? What do you philosophers think of Dawkins commenting on God which I believe is your turf? What do you philosophers think of when Stephen Hawking says that philosophy is dead?

I also don't think of philosophy as turf - nor do I think that teaching philosophy or studying philosophy necessarily makes you a lover and possessor of wisdom. I also find it irksome when some in the field act as though philosophy profs are the ones who have access to the so-called deeper issues in specific issues- as though philosophers could explain to an Einstein what he really meant.

Some Professors at the department of the Law School I attend seem to have a kind of mystical obsession concerning the writings of Hegel. I really don't understand the importance of deeply studying the works of this philosopher in our present context. What is the legacy of Hegel?

I work from what might be termed an existential perspective and as such have almost an innate repugnance to H.' s approach to philosophy. He often reads like a blowhard to me - as far away from a Socrates as can be-- and yet I have to concede that there are many epiphanies in Hegel - not the least of which is his recognition of the connection between our social/ economic conditions and individual consciousness. His Lord and Bondsman passage is remarkable. There he captures the importance of our need for recognition and the extent to which the look of the other impacts the way that we look at ourselves. Though I'm no expert on it, I believe that he also had a good deal to say about the nature of law. Sorry that I can't be more help.

How does a philosopher become popular? Why do we teach the writings of some philosophers, but not others if all philosophers work from a common history, or work within a common tradition or set of ideas that include logic? Is there a social construction to philosophical ideas?

Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and a few others aside, the stocks of philosophers does seem to go up and down. In the late forties and fifties, for example, Kierkegaard was quite popular. Then analytic philosophy developed a strangle hold and he was dubbed to be too obscure. Then in the late eighties, with the emergence of deconstructionism/ postmoderninsm, analytic philosophy ceased to dominate and Kierkegaard was back in the club. There is a social dimension - a kind of market force at work. I direct a research Library on Kierkegaard and we have many international scholars come to the Library and their take on Kierkegaard, what they find important, differs according to the their political and economic situation. As you hint, difficulty is also a factor. I can't teach Husserl in my Existentialism class because it would just go over everyone's head. Thanks.