Public Philosophy Journal

The Public Philosophy Journal is designed to re-envision the relationship between the academy and everyday life by creating a public space for accessible but rigorous scholarly discourse on challenging contemporary issues of public concern. Our intent is to create a journal that will perform public philosophy as its mode of publication.

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Curated Content

Impact of Social Sciences – The politics of the public eye

Melonie_Fullick

Recently I wrote a piece for The Globe and Mail in which I argued that we should be encouraging Ph.D. students to learn how to communicate with broader audiences. One of the questions I couldn’t really address in that short article was: what’s it actually like to engage on those practices of communication, particularly as early-career scholars who might be working on PhDs and/or seeking academic employment? Yes, I discussed the positive aspects of public exposure, but what about the “flip side”?

There is one issue in particular that has been on my radar more than usual over the past few months. Public communication of almost any kind involves risk. When you stand up and say something “out loud”, you don’t necessarily (just) start a dialogue or deepen an existing debate. You’re also presenting yourself as a target. There is a certain loss of control involved: while you may well have taken the time to carefully articulate something in writing, it only takes a few moments for someone to make a snarky comment and post it, or to dismiss your views quickly on Twitter.

For full article, see Impact of Social Sciences – The politics of the public eye

Why solitary confinement degrades us all – Lisa Guenther – Aeon

I first met Five Omar Mualimm-ak at a forum on solitary confinement in New York City. He wore track shoes with his tailored suit. ‘As long as the Prison Industrial Complex keeps running, so will I,’ he explained. After hearing him speak about the connections between racism, poverty, mass incarceration and police violence, I invited Five to speak at a conference I was organising in Nashville, Tennessee. He arrived, as always, in a suit and track shoes. As we walked across campus to a conference reception, I worked up the courage to ask him how he got his name. He told me: ‘I spent five years in solitary confinement, and when I came out I was a different person.’

For the full article, see Why solitary confinement degrades us all – Lisa Guenther – Aeon.

‘A Racism without Races’: An Interview with Étienne Balibar

Professor emeritus at the Université Paris X, the philosopher Étienne Balibar has made the question of racism and its new forms of expression an important theme of his political philosophy, notably in his critique of capitalism and of liberal society. He is the author, among others, of Citoyen Sujet et autres essais d’anthropologie philosophique (2010) and La proposition de l’égaliberté (2011), published by Presses Universitaires de France. Passing through Montreal last November, he was keen to answer our questions.

Relations: Given the predominance of the question of human rights in our societies, as well as the official condemnation of racism, one might think that racism is a relic of ages past. Yet this is not the case. To what extent is it still a central – indeed, structural – phenomenon, particularly in the era of capitalist globalisation? In other words, what does it say about our societies?


The interview was originally published by Revue Relations and was translated by David Broder.

For the full interview, see VersoBooks.com.

Critical scholarship in a hostile climate: academics and the public

Corporations are involved in every area of our lives. In our education, health, welfare and criminal justice systems, they are ever-present.

So obvious is this “fact” of life that it is often only in moments of crisis – such as the recent Hazelwood coal mine fire for the residents of Morwell – that we bother to question the consequences of corporate activity.

For full article, see Critical scholarship in a hostile climate: academics and the public.

Teaching Philosophy in Prisons | Daily Nous

Currently over two million people in the United States are in prison, and about nine million worldwide. There are many questions worth asking about the systems of criminal justice that lead to that result. The focus of this post, though, is quite narrow. It concerns just one thing academic philosophers can do, as academic philosophers, in light of this: teach prisoners philosophy.

For full post, see Teaching Philosophy in Prisons | Daily Nous.

Academia, philosophy, and ‘race’ | Practical Ethics

It was recently brought to public attention that of the UK’s 18,510 university professors, only 85 are of black origin (Black African/Black Caribbean/Black ‘other’), a soberingly disproportionate figure. Some people may want to explain this incongruence by saying that it is proportionate, or makes sense, when you consider the amount of black people entering and remaining within higher education. However, rather than the problem being solved with this explanation, it re-emerges in questions surrounding the reasons as to why this may be the case. If there are a disproportionately low number of black students entering (and remaining in) higher education, this itself needs to be questioned, with discussions had on financial situations, state education, implicit biases, and other social and economic barriers that may be disproportionately affecting certain sections of the population. In this blog post I will explore these factors, as well as suggesting that discussions on ‘intelligence’ genes within bioethics may serve to perpetuate a hostile and exclusionary environment.The situation for black academics appears to be more acute in academic philosophy. There are only 5 black philosophers employed in UK universities, with just two of these being employed in philosophy departments (both at UCL), and the other 3 in classics, humanities and ‘theology, philosophy and religious studies’ departments. Philosophy is also notorious for its lack of female representation. Statistics show the number of women gradually reducing at each stage of academia – although 46% of philosophy undergraduates are female, this drops to 31% of philosophy PhD students, and is at its lowest with only 24% of full time staff being women.

Reflections on a Revolutionary Imaginary and Round Tables | Public Seminar


Polish Round Table Talks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 6, 1989. © Erazm Ciołek | Polska: sierpień 1980–sierpień 1989

Polish Round Table Talks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 6, 1989. © Erazm Ciołek | Polska: sierpień 1980–sierpień 1989

This is the prepared text answering the question “What do we really know about transitions to democracy?” for  the General Seminar of The New School for Social Research, March 19, 2014.

It was a quarter of a century ago, in 1989, that a new kind of revolutionary imaginary emerged, one that promises a new beginning, and demonstrates the possibility of comprehensive systemic change without bloodshed. Velvet or otherwise un-radical, this kind of revolution has become a site of tangible hope, a site in which words have power, where people regain their dignity, and realize their agency through instruments other than weapons. Negotiated revolution is not an oxymoron, but it is still an extraordinary event, as dictatorships are by definition opposed to any spirit of dialogue and compromise.

For full article, see: Reflections on a Revolutionary Imaginary and Round Tables | Public Seminar

Let Them Eat Code | Dissent Magazine

Let Them Eat Code

Homeless couple in San Francisco (Euan, 2010, Flickr creative commons)

Late last year, a Bay Area entrepreneur named Greg Gopman took to Facebook to share his feelings about one of American society’s most stubborn problems: homelessness. “There is nothing more grotesque than walking down market st. [sic] in San Francisco,” wrote Gopman, the CEO of a tech marketing company called AngelHack, in a much-circulated post. “Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue.” He went on:

There is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. In other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society . . . sell[s] small trinkets, beg[s] coyly, stay[s] quiet, and generally stay[s] out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that’s okay.

Gopman isn’t the only Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has publicly expressed disgust for San Francisco’s roughly 6,500-strong homeless population in recent months.

For full article, see Let Them Eat Code | Dissent Magazine.

Is Philosophy Obsolete? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

For full article, see Is Philosophy Obsolete? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Men Who Left Were White

The Men Who Left Were White

There are three things you should know.

First: I’m not biracial.

“What are you?” people ask, and they expect me to say something thrilling and tribal. I answer, but still they press. “Where are your ancestors from?” people ask, and they want answers that aren’t San Antonio and Wheeling, West Virginia. But that’s all I got. My story is both simple and untold.

The bones of it, of me: I’m black, despite the skin that goes virtually translucent in the winter. Despite the thin unpredictable curls. My mom and dad are black, as are my grandparents. That’s all she wrote. That’s all there is, even as I write this sentence. My parents, usually liberal employers of nuance, have always been militant-clear about drawing that line. We aren’t biracial.

For the full article, see The Men Who Left Were White.