Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice

Volume 2, Spring 2020

Ian Olasov
Pages 62-71

Philosophy for Characters

Public philosophers have tended to think of their audience as the public, or perhaps a public or counterpublic. In my work on the Ask a Philosopher booth, however, it’s been helpful to think of our audience as made up of a handful of characters—types defined by the way in which they engage (or decline to engage) with the booth. I describe the characters I’ve encountered at the booth: orbiters, appreciaters, readers, monologuists, freethinkers, scholars, and peers. By reflecting on these characters and their needs, we can both imagine other forms of public philosophy that might better serve them, and better articulate the values that inhere in public philosophy projects like the Ask a Philosopher booth. I conclude with a brief case for the philosophy of public philosophy.

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