What do freelance philosophers think about on their day off?
Until I heard one introduced on a radio discussion programme recently, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Unable to hear the rest of the broadcast, I’ve been wondering ever since what the job entailed.
I picture the philosopher on the programme in full flow, his meter running, taxi-like, as he expounds. Then, as the end credits roll, he flips up the flag to turn his yellow “for hire” light back on. Till someone hails him for another trip, he’ll be switching off his mind.
When not in receipt of a paycheck, does his overdeveloped mind transforms from wily processor to passive receiver? Does he sit expressionless, refusing to extrapolate philosophical theories from his experiences? Next time I meet a philosopher, I’ll be watching and taking notes.
Actually, I refuse to accept that there can be such a thing as a freelance philosopher. Surely, if your mind is of philosophical bent, you just can’t help yourself. It’s the same with being a writer.
Admittedly, when I ditched my full-time job in February, I did initially bill myself as a freelance writer to celebrate escaping the yoke of a salaried employee. But I quickly realised two important truths.
Firstly, freelance should not be confused with freedom. The freelance may no longer be enslaved to a single employer, but that doesn’t make him free. (And slavery has its advantages – security, for starters).
Secondly, a writer is a writer is a writer. I will always write, whether or not someone is paying me a fee. All artistic or creative types should surely be entitled to describe themselves by their vocation regardless of their income. If you write poetry, you’re a poet; if you paint pictures you’re an artist. It’s immaterial whether the meter is running (or should that be metre, for the poet?) Payment is desirable, of course – but lack of it won’t dry up my pen. Selling only a single painting in his lifetime did not, I am sure, prevent Van Gogh from calling himself an artist.
It’s not as if there are specific qualifications for such occupations. It’s not like the medical profession, where you need years of training and official registration before you can use the associated title. I for one would have to be desparate to accept treatment from a freelance doctor or itinerant dentist.
This tag “freelance” also has a certain implied sadness about it. Like the label “single” these days, there are overtones of failure, of waiting for someone to come along and snap you up.
In the end, I felt a little sorry for my mystery freelance philosopher. I just hope he eventually found someone willing to pay him to come to terms with his situation.