Is there any problem, moral or otherwise, in mixing money and enlightenment? For instance, asking people to pay spiritual guidance. Should philosophers receive a salary?

Even spiritual teachers have to eat. One might be suspicious of someone who withheld "enlightenment" unless the seeker paid, though in many traditions, support for spiritual guidance comes from voluntary donations.

Whatever one thinks about people who explicitly claim to be providing spiritual help, counselors and psychotherapists offer something that's at least in a ballpark not too many miles away. For instance: there are interesting similarities between what one might learn from Buddhist practice and from cognitive behavioral therapy. I, for one, would be puzzled if someone thought a therapist shouldn't charge for her services. Exactly how the lines get drawn here and what, if anything, underlies the difference is an interesting question. If gurus shouldn't be paid, should doctors? How about artists? After all, insofar as I count any of my own experiences as spiritual, some of the more profound ones came from paintings, works of literature, pieces of music.

In any case, I'd suggest caution about lumping philosophers together with spiritual teachers. Although there are some exceptions, most of what philosophers actually do isn't much like spiritual guidance at all. Here's a passage from a classic 20th century philosophical essay:

"Confusion of meaning with extension, in the case of general terms, is less common than confusion of meaning with naming in the case of singular terms." (W. V. O. Quine, 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism.')

I think the author would have been surprised if anyone had thought this was part of a piece of spiritual guidance. Perhaps he might have been less surprised that some people would be puzzled that he received a salary, but the world is full of wonders.

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