I have to give props to one of my friends, who will remain nameless for reasons of professional interest, for the following insight.
There's an old saying that goes: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. At SPEP, the aim is neither to give a man a fish nor to teach a man to fish, but just to convince a man that 'fishing' is cool."
As much as I hate to admit it, I didn't have to ask my friend to explain what he meant. I've definitely seen my share of the pomp-and-circumstance papers at conferences of late. Whole lot of thunder, whole lot of lightning... no rain.
But there is an even more specific variety of critique that I think he was aiming at, and that is a criticism of a certin "cult of personality" philosophy. To be an expert at this, one needs only to intimate a profound observation, to gesture toward or call into question or (my favorite) to problematize a particular theme or concept, in order to draw attention to it, but without actually saying anything substantial about it. To go back to the fishing analogy, it's as if these people aren't really aware of the fact that somebody might be hungry and might actually need the fish. Or they don't care. Either way, it's all about the presentation of the illusion of serious thought. (See my post on "The Prestige" for elaboration.)
So, let me state my position clearly. Fishing is, in fact, cool. But it's only cool because it's a way to catch fish. If you're going to take the meat out of the equation, you might as well be standing on the riverbank picking your nose.