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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 13, Issue 1, Spring 1999

Sami Pihlström
Pages 121-133
DOI: 10.5840/ijap19991318

Applied Philosophy
Problems and Applications

This paper provides a critical discussion of the concept of applied philosophy. Writers specializing in applied philosophy (e.g., in the various fields of applied ethics) often assume what is here called the traditional concept of applied philosophy, i.e., they think of themselves as applying a “pure” (in itself nonapplied) philosophical theory to some humanly important practical problem area. If understood along these lines, applied philosophy can be taken to be analogous to applied science. However, this analogy collapses as soon as we realize that the “results” of applied philosophy cannot usually be regarded as instantiations of the von Wrightian technical norm, which can be considered the basic form of the results of applied scientific research. On the other hand, the postmodernist, antiscientific rival of traditional applied philosophy, viz., “media philosophy,” is argued to be little more than a relativist, degraded version of the traditional conception. Finally, it is suggested that the dichotomy between pure and applied philosophy should be abandoned in favor of a pragmatist view, which urges that all significant philosophical problems are always already embedded in human practice.

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