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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, January 2014

Public Philosophy

Jack Russell Weinstein
Pages 33-57

What Does Public Philosophy Do?
(Hint: It Does Not Make Better Citizens)

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.

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