Philosophy for the Public: With or Without Gimmicks?


Freelance philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton, whom you may know from Philosophy Bites,  is prompted by the occasion of a straightforward interview with a philosopher in the mainstream media (Daniel Dennett on BBC Radio 4) to observe how rare it is, and then, in a series of tweets, come up with increasingly ridiculous pitches for TV and radio producers about how to present philosophers to the public.

How about try to pass? Oh wait, he’s got it:

Your pitches welcome.

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Eddy Nahmias
Eddy Nahmias
4 years ago

Philosophers as characters in existing shows. The Walking Dead, Humans (or Westworld), etc. Might as well make some of the more pedantic discussions more informative.
(By the way, in Humans, the company trying to make conscious robots is called Qualia Inc.)Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Eddy Nahmias
4 years ago

I agree that introducing philosophers to existing shows would likely be better than having shows about philosophers. Philosophical issues, like those raised by The Walking Dead and Westworld, are interesting. The life of a philosophers, on the other hand, is not particularly interesting (to most people).Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Eddy Nahmias
4 years ago

Eddy, you’ve inspired me to propose a new history sequence in our curriculum: The Talking Dead. Just add a colon and Ancient, Medieval, or Modern and we’re good to go!Report

Kevin Richardson
4 years ago

the pitches he’s making fun of sound a lot more interesting, entertaining, and educational than a thirty-minute interview with a talking head. my suggestion: maybe a philosophy competition; america’s next top philosopher!Report

John Schwenkler
4 years ago

“Zombie or Not?” — Participants have to determine whether given humanoid creatures are conscious. The Wittgensteinians always answer first.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
4 years ago

Maybe my problem is just that I’m not sure what Warburton means by ‘gimmicks’, but I find the implied contrast between giving philosophy “straight” versus relating it to a “life story” to be somewhat odd. I don’t consider efforts to relate philosophical ideas to lived experiences to be at all a detraction from philosophical content.Report

Aaron Goldbird
Aaron Goldbird
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
4 years ago

I couldn’t help read those tweets as a dig at Sandel’s show, and to be fair, the Global Philosopher was the tv equivalent of a forum thread that undergrads have to write for participation credit. But the problem is not the use of “gimmicks”, whatever they are, but how to devise gimmicks or angles or styles or affectations that make the content gripping without making it shallow or twee.Report

losriley
losriley
4 years ago

You know when you see somebody contemplating a work of art they stand still and take time to enjoy and interact with the work. Sometimes for several minutes or even longer. Philosophical ideas can be presented and understood without pointless distractions or inane formats.
Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  losriley
4 years ago

Yes, they can, but if we can bring philosophy to more people by employing “pointless distractions or inane formats” then we have a duty to do so.Report