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1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Ramona Ilea Introduction
2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Eric Thomas Weber The Pragmatist’s Call to Democratic Activism in Higher Education
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This essay defends the Pragmatist’s call to activism in higher education, understanding it as a necessary development of good democratic inquiry. Some criticisms of activism have merit, but I distinguish crass or uncritical activism from judicious activism. I then argue that judicious activism in higher education and in philosophy is not only defensible, but both called for implicitly in the task of democratic education as well as an aspect of what John Dewey has articulated as the supreme intellectual obligation, namely to ensure that inquiry is put to use for the benefit of life.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Julinna C. Oxley How to Be a (Good) Philosopher-Activist
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Can philosophers be good activists? This essay defines activism for the philosopher and then provides a normative conception of a good philosopher-activist that is grounded in rational integrity and sound rational deliberation. I argue that because philosophers have been trained in reasoning and argumentation, they can contribute these skills to an activist movement. An activist with rational integrity exhibits five skills or virtues: they are honest, rational, logical, deliberative, and respectful. Conversely, bad philosopher-activists display five vices: they are dishonest, manipulative, obfuscating, thoughtless, and insulting. Next, I argue that rhetorical and reasoning skills are only part of what define good activism, and describe the soft skills needed for effective activism. Philosophical training sometimes works against the development of these soft skills, but they are critical to the success of the philosopher-activist. I conclude by describing activism within the context of academic life and argue that philosophers who engage in activism can do so in an intellectually responsible way.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Jovana Davidovic Review of Who Should Die? The Ethics of Killing in War, Eds. Ryan Jenkins, Michael Robillard and Bradley Jay Strawser
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Susan C. C. Hawthorne, Ramona C. Ilea, Monica “Mo” Janzen Engaged Philosophy: Showcasing Philosophers-Activists Working with the Media, Community Groups, Political Groups, Prisons, and Students
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By drawing on a selection of interviews from the website Engaged Philosophy, this paper highlights the work of philosopher-activists within their classrooms and communities. These philosophers have stepped out of the ivory towers and work directly with media, community and political groups, people in prison; or they encourage their students to engage in activist projects. The variety of approaches presented here shows the many ways philosophically inspired activism can give voice to those who are marginalized, shine a light on injustices, expose the root of social problems, and empower others to seek solutions. This work shows the relevance of philosophy to practical problems and the powerful effects it can have in the world.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Trevor Hedberg Review of Food, Animals, and the Environment: An Ethical Approach, by Christopher Schlottmann and Jeff Sebo
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
R. A. Main Making Room for Activist Voices in a Philosophically Sound Theory of Disability: The Solidarity Thesis Versus the Welfarist Approach
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Against the medical and social models of disability are two newer proposals. Elizabeth Barnes’ Minority Body proposes that it is the bodies which are advocated for and included in the disability rights movement which are rightfully called “disabled.” Savulescu and Kahane’s Welfarist approach proposes that disability is intrinsically tied to the effects of bodily states on welfare. They put the need for a consistent and relatively simple normative theory above accounting for standard case judgements about who is and is not disabled or looking at all to membership of the disabled community. I argue that Barnes’ theory offers the best response to issues with the dominant models of disability. Further, I argue that the Welfarist theory operates in a space removed from the wishes and lived experiences of disabled people – separating ‘disability’ from activism entirely – to its detriment. Doing so compromises its explanatory power, over-generalizes the concept and prevents the insertion of meaningful boundaries. Barnes’ ‘solidarity thesis’ soundly conceptualizes disability whilst making room for activist voices. The centering of activist projects makes it stronger.
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Kyle York The Philosopher as Moral Activist: A Call for Ethical Caution in Publication
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It is normal to think that philosophers’ first dedication is to the truth. Publishers and writers consider ideas and papers according to criteria such as originality, eloquence, interestingness, soundness, and plausibility. I suggest that moral consequence should play a greater role in our choices to publish when serious harm is at stake. One’s credence in a particular idea should be weighed against the potential consequences of the publication of one’s ideas both if one turns out to be right and if one turns out to be wrong. This activist approach to philosophical writing combines moral concern with epistemic humility.
9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Emily McGill Review of The Moral Nexus, by R. Jay Wallace
10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Amy McKiernan Ethics Across Campus and the Curriculum: An Overview of Work in Progress
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In this essay, I offer an overview of the “Ethics Across Campus and the Curriculum Program” developed at Dickinson College over the past two years as part of a broader initiative to promote civic education and engagement. The essay proceeds in three parts. First, I explain the decision to adopt the language of “ethical reasoning” in our program and how I understand this work as supporting student activism. Second, I describe the faculty study group developed to incorporate ethical reasoning into already existing courses across the college. Third, I focus on how our college has incorporated ethical reasoning into new student orientation and first year student leadership retreats. Finally, I conclude with work on the horizon and a surprising result that has emerged from doing this work.
11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 21 > Issue: 1/2
Kaci Harrison Review of Reputation: What It Is and Why It Matters, by Gloria Origgi
12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Jack Russell Weinstein Public Philosophy: Introduction
13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Jeremy Barris The Nature and Possibility of Public Philosophy
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The article argues that there is a central problem with the concept of public philosophy, in that philosophy is partly defined by questioning reflection on its own sense, while public or popular culture characteristically relies unreflectively on its ultimate givens, and these are mutually exclusive modes of thought. The article proposes, however, that because of philosophy’s reflection on and potential questioning of its own sense it has a paradoxical structure of foundational and comprehensive conflict with itself and its own procedure, and that this self-divergence allows a genuinely philosophical role for public philosophy. In the public context, acknowledged failure to understand beyond a certain point makes room for a limitation of sense that incompletely but effectively substitutes for the properly philosophical explicit and questioning reflection on the nature of sense as such and on the possibility that even what we do understand about the relevant issues fails to have sense.
14. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Jack Russell Weinstein What Does Public Philosophy Do?: (Hint: It Does Not Make Better Citizens)
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In this article, I examine the purpose of public philosophy, challenging the claim that its goal is to create better citizens. I define public philosophy narrowly as the act of professional philosophers engaging with nonprofessionals, in a non-academic setting, with the specific aim of exploring issues philosophically. The paper is divided into three sections. The first contrasts professional and public philosophy with special attention to the assessment mechanism in each. The second examines the relationship between public philosophy and citizenship, calling into question the effect public philosophy has on political reasoning. The third focuses on the practice of public philosophy, describing actual events to investigate the nature and limits of their outcomes. I conclude that public philosophy aims at future philosophical inquiry but is best considered a form of entertainment.
15. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
John Huss Popular Culture and Philosophy: Rules of Engagement
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The exploration of popular culture topics by academic philosophers for non-academic audiences has given rise to a distinctive genre of philosophical writing. Edited volumes with titles such as Black Sabbath and Philosophy or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy contain chapters by multiple philosophical authors that attempt to bring philosophy to popular audiences. Two dominant models have emerged in the genre. On the pedagogical model, authors use popular culture examples to teach the reader philosophy. The end is to promote philosophical literacy, defined as acquaintance with the key problems, ideas, and figures in the history of philosophy. In contrast, on the applied philosophy model, authors use philosophy to open up new dimensions of the popular culture topic for fans. The end is to illustrate the value of philosophy in understanding the popular culture topic, and ultimately, to demonstrate the value of philosophy in general. Taking stock of the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two models provides an opportunity to reflect more broadly on whether, why, and how philosophers should engage the public.
16. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Christopher Meyers Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion: Rethinking “Teaching, Scholarship and Service”
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One of the responses to the attacks upon the contemporary university, particularly upon the humanities, has been to encourage faculty to engage in so-called ‘public intellectualism.’ In this paper I urge (some) philosophers to embrace this turn, but only if the academy can effectively address how to credit such work in the tenure and promotion process. Currently, public philosophy is typically placed under ‘service’, even though the work is often more intellectually and philosophically rigorous than committee work, even sometimes more than publications. I address this problem by providing an analysis of what is academically valuable about good scholarship and then showing how much of public philosophy achieves those goods. From this I argue that the academy should abandon the traditional categories of teaching/research/service and replace them with a holistic and qualitative single category of “teacher-scholar.” I then recommend that evaluation criteria should be very inclusive, giving credit to the wide range of activities in which faculty participate and I provide some suggestions for how those criteria should read.
17. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
William Irwin Writing for the Reader: A Defense of Philosophy and Popular Culture Books
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There are some risks in producing public philosophy. We don’t want to misrepresent the work of philosophy or mislead readers into thinking they have learned all they need to know from a single, short book or article. The potential benefits, though, outweigh the risks. Public philosophy can disseminate important ideas and enhance appreciation for the difficult and complex work of philosophers. Popular writing is often less precise, lacking in fine detail and elaboration, but it can still be accurate (in the sense of being “on target”). People often need a simplified account to get an initial understanding. Whatever one thinks of the role of jargon in scholarly writing, its place should be minimal in popular writing. If physicists can write books of popular science with virtually no equations, philosophers can write books for a general audience with limited jargon.
18. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Massimo Pigliucci, Leonard Finkelman The Value of Public Philosophy to Philosophers
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Philosophy has been a public endeavor since its origins in ancient Greece, India, and China. However, recent years have seen the development of a new type of public philosophy conducted by both academics and nonprofessionals. The new public philosophy manifests itself in a range of modalities, from the publication of magazines and books for the general public to a variety of initiatives that exploit the power and flexibility of social networks and new media. In this paper we examine the phenomenon of public philosophy in its several facets, and investigate whether and in what sense it is itself a mix of philosophical practice and teaching. We conclude with a number of suggestions to academic colleagues on why and how to foster further growth of public philosophy for the benefit of society at large and of the discipline itself.
19. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Mark S. McLeod-Harrison Socrates and St. Paul: Can Christian Apologetics be Public Philosophy?
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Can popular Christian apologetics be public philosophy? This paper argues that it can be partly because the criteria for what counts as public philosophy are so vague but also partly because popular Christian apologetics parallels much that counts as public philosophy both in terms of its historical roots in Socrates but also how public philosophy is practiced now. In particular, there are parallels on the role of amateurs vs. professionals, the sorts of topics, the quality of the discussions, and the passion vs. the neutrality of its practitioners.
20. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Greg Littmann Writing Philosophy for the Public is a Moral Obligation
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Writing philosophy to be read by people who are not professional philosophers ought to be central to the work of professional philosophers. Writing for the public should be central to their work because their professional end is to produce ideas for use by people who are not professional philosophers. Philosophy is unlike most disciplines in that the ideas produced by professional philosophers generally have to be understood by a person before they can be of any use to them. As a tool for delivering philosophical ideas to the public, writing philosophical works is invaluable. The need to write philosophy directly for the public should be clear regardless of one’s conception of the value of philosophy, since writing directly for the public is in the spirit of all the most popular modern philosophical movements.