What Are Professional Philosophers For?


Most academic philosophy departments see themselves primarily as housing a specialized academic discipline, and contributing only incidentally here or there to a university’s general education curriculum. The priority needs to be reversed. Frankly, there is little or no need for specialized academic philosophy; if it disappeared overnight, the only ones who would notice would be the practitioners themselves. But on the other hand, despite the occasional iconoclastic polemic saying otherwise, there is a widespread recognition that philosophy provides a valuable contribution to the mind of an educated person, even if the person is not working toward a degree in the field. Philosophy professors need to see their primary job as enriching the mental lives, values, and discourses of non-philosophers. For almost everyone, we should be a side dish rather than the main course. That is where our societal value lies.

Charlie Huenemann (Utah State) argues that the primary job of philosophers should be to “enlighten masses,” and that the training of philosophers and the attitudes prevalent in the profession need to change to recognize this. Philosophy should “move out of the tower and back into the agora.” You can read the whole post at his blog, Huenemanniac

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