Examples of Public Philosophy


Barry Maguire (UNC) is attempting to get a new prize for public philosophy up and running. By “public philosophy” he means “anything with significant philosophical content or method written by someone with significant philosophical trainining primarily for an audience of non-philosophers.”

He is collecting examples of public philosophy but is having trouble finding examples of a certain type. Perhaps Daily Nous readers can help. Specifically, he is looking to locate essays that meet all of the following criteria:

  • longer than 3000 words
  • not primarily on subjects related to moral or political philosophy
  • ideally not just by white men

It is not that the prize would be limited to such essays. Rather, he is hoping to be able to provide a variety of examples to potential funders. If you know of some examples, or good places to look, please share them in the comments. More news about the prize will be forthcoming as it develops.

guest
16 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ian Olasov
5 years ago

I organize a public philosophy speaker series called Brooklyn Public Philosophers. We’ve had a pretty good balance of speakers by gender and topic. Among female speakers on non-moral/social topics, Anna Gotlib, Skye Cleary, and Liz Camp have presented on memory, love, and metaphor, respectively. Not in writing, I know, but may be a good place to start.

Check out the website for more info: bkpp.tumblr.comReport

n
n
Reply to  Ian Olasov
5 years ago
Eric Silverman
Eric Silverman
5 years ago

A bunch of the essays in the popular culture and philosophy books would meet those criteria.Report

Eric Thomas Weber
5 years ago

Hi, I think the main challenge in this request has to do with the length parameter. It’s just far less common to find long-form essays for general audiences than shorter op-eds. Your casual reader will take the time to read 500-1,200 words, but rarely takes the time for 2,500 to 3,000. You can find those, but they’re generally magazine pieces, like pieces in the Atlantic, the New Republic, etc. Some philosophers write for those, but just by the fact of the far smaller number of those than newspapers, you’ll find fewer of them. One exception might be blogposts, though, but even those, I suspect, reach larger audiences more often because in part of their brevity.

All of that said, there was a pretty striking piece of intellectual history and history of philosophy in psychologist Alison Gopni’s latest Atlantic Piece, “How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis,” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/how-david-hume-helped-me-solve-my-midlife-crisis/403195/. I’d call the piece either social philosophy or philosophy of psychology wrapped up in a story about an investigation into the history of philosophy.

If shorter pieces qualify for Maguire’s aims, he should check out Bertha Manninen (https://webapp4.asu.edu/directory/person/968301) in Psychology Today (on parenthood, abortion, and philosophical psych): https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-birth-wisdom and on Huffington Post (recent, more to come): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bertha-alvarez-manninen/an-open-letter-to-marco-r_b_8055884.html.

Also, lots of public philosophy is going on via video and podcasts, especially the latter. A person to check out is Dr. Tommy Curry of Texas A&M (http://philosophy.tamu.edu/html/bio-Curry.html), who is a frequent guest on the Rob Redding Show. Redding is big in Atlanta, but now via the Web, not only there. Curry’s been prolific in his contributions both with Redding and with other outlets. His work covers a number of areas, but one piece that isn’t political philosophy or moral philosophy, except maybe the latter in a broad sense, is his critique of Beyonce as a role model: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkHDiP8wwIQ.

I love to write and philosophers prioritize the written word. As a mentor has directed me, however, it’s important to look to radio and especially television. If you want public engagement and impact, he said, “some people read the paper. Many more people watch television.” New media are crucial for the today’s phase of public philosophy.

Good luck, Barry! This is important work! Be in touch if I can be of any help or support.

P.S./F.Y.I. My own love of public philosophy motivated a recent newspaper piece: http://etw.li/1Pgc9ZI, my latest book: http://etw.li/1UVnp16, and my podcast, Philosophy Bakes Bread: http://etw.li/1QMWD7X.Report

Andrew Cullison
Andrew Cullison
5 years ago

We have three things here at the Prindle Institute for Ethics that might count

1. The Prindle Post – we pay philosophers (and scholars from other disciplines) for columns related to ethics. I’m linking below to Claudia Mills’ recent post.
http://www.prindlepost.org/2015/09/diversity-in-childrens-books-a-white-authors-quandry-part-i/
http://www.prindlepost.org/2015/09/diversity-in-childrens-books-a-white-authors-quandry-part-ii/

2. Examining Ethics – a podcast that discusses all things ethics. We just launched episode three yesterday.
http://examiningethics.org/2015/09/episode-3-the-right-side-of-history/

3. Young Philosophers – a video lecture series that includes introductory talks.
http://www.youngphilosophers.org/Report

Paul Henne
Paul Henne
5 years ago

Do videos count?

This is one of our most popular videos at Wireless Philosophy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYAoiLhOuaoReport

Helen
Helen
5 years ago

Hello. I’m a founder of the Laboratory of the Philosophycal Techniques in Saint-Petersburg. The work group’s aim is practice of the various philosophycal techniques (both historical and contemporary) and the study of the changes in thinking within the framework of this techniques. Is there an email address to send essay? I will be grateful if you can send me this information.Report

Beckett Sterner
Beckett Sterner
5 years ago

Some philosophers of biology have spent considerable effort writing for the public about evolution and creationism. Michael Ruse and Elliot Sober would be two of the most important.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
5 years ago

I suspect “non-philosophers” ought to read “non-academics”. I’ve written quite a bit aimed at non-philosophers, but it tends to presuppose a tad too much mathematics to be called “public” philosophy!Report

Marie
Marie
5 years ago

I’m a dork for self-nominating, but this one, written for public policy activists and (secondarily) lawyers, fits the bill: http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/research/JLPP/upload/Newhouse-final.pdfReport

Beth
5 years ago

The Forum has been hosting public philosophy lectures, debates, and panel discussions in London – mostly in the LSE – for the last 20 years. Many of the events from recent years have been turned into podcasts and are available on our website.

As it goes, our new blog went live just this week. We post pieces aimed at non-specialist audiences in which philosophers write a précis of one of their published papers or books. Current posts don’t match all the criteria laid out in the OP just yet – but watch this space.

Website here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/theforum/

Expressions of interest in writing for us here: e[dot][email protected]Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
5 years ago

Jumping off of David Wallace’s comment, it seems like more papers could be found with a slightly altered understanding of ‘public philosophy’. I tend to think that a good way to characterize ‘public philosophy’ is in terms of something like ‘anything with significant philosophical content or method written by someone with significant philosophical training primarily with non-philosophers in mind’. The thought here is that public philosophy isn’t just philosophical work done with those outside of the academy as intended audience, but can also be philosophical work done with those outside of the academy guiding our writing in any number of ways. One might allow those outside of the academy to guide our thinking by having the goal be improvement of the material situation for such folks, by having our methods/assumptions be constrained by that which those outside of the academy could be brought to accept with a short conversation, etc.Report

Tim O'Keefe
5 years ago

Harry Frankfurt, “On Bullshit.”Report

Jason Stanley
Jason Stanley
5 years ago

I find the “not primarily moral or political philosophy” restriction deeply troubling. Some of us think that all philosophy has a moral and political dimension. So this is a call for public philosophy by those who are apolitical. And yet it adds to that a desire for philosophy by underrepresented groups, who are least likely to share this apolitical conception of philosophy.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Jason Stanley
5 years ago

Jason, I don’t think that the restriction is intended to dismiss the importance of moral and political philosophy any more than the desire to hear from philosophers who aren’t men is intended to dismiss the importance of male philosophers. Rather, with so much of the work being done in public philosophy being moral and political, they want to show that public philosophy is broader than that.Report

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

Many of the essays at http://slatestarcodex.com/ seem to fit the bill (and if I remember rightly, the author studied philosophy as an undergraduate).Report