The Public Philosophy Journal opens a public space for a community that promotes and sustains thoughtful and inclusive practices of discourse, deliberation, and action.
In collaboration with Matrix at Michigan State, we are currently developing an innovative, interactive platform for public peer review, curation, and publication.
In the meantime we have created this blog and link aggregation website to begin cultivating a community of people interested in broad connections between philosophy and the public.
You can help in many ways. The simplest is to visit the site, return regularly, read the curated content, and share it more broadly.
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And if you want to start contributing to the content, we invite you to use our URL Submission Form, or to tweet us articles you think might be of interest to other readers of the site.
Finally, if you are willing to engage with us at a more substantive level, we are looking for Curators-at-Large.
Our hope is that a community of readers and curators will develop so that when we are ready to go live with our full-featured site, we will have people to help us develop the PPJ community into a wider, mutually supportive community.
As Curator-at-Large for the Public Philosophy Journal I chose to highlight a growing area of publicly engaged philosophy, namely, “pre-college philosophy” or “philosophy for/with children.”
While remaining active within the academy many professional philosophers have sought to expand access to philosophy in the US and beyond. In their pioneering works Matthew Lipman and Gareth Matthews offered robust justifications for doing philosophical work with children in K-12 schools, as well as practical guidance on how to do this work effectively. Since Lipman and Matthews a new generation of philosophers have expanded efforts to provide young people with access to philosophical instruction and training. Philosophy graduate students from numerous departments are particularly active in this work, founding philosophy outreach programs that introduce the practice of philosophy to young students. To cite just a few examples, the Philosophical Horizons Program at the University of Memphis, the UNC-Chapel Hill Philosophy Outreach Program , and the Penn State Philosophy Department Outreach Program are all led, in large part (if not completely), by dedicated graduate students. The Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) boasts philosophy and education faculty, graduate student, and K-12 teachers as members and continues to advance national efforts to broaden access to philosophy in our country. These individuals and programs reveal a different kind of philosophical work and a different role for philosophers, a role that includes engaging with local communities and demonstrating the relevance of philosophy beyond the academy in our lives and education generally.
But why care about this work? There is much that can be (and has been) written in response to this question. For the moment we might consider that introducing philosophy in pre-college classrooms would be beneficial for a number of practical reasons. In an increasingly difficult job market adding philosophy classes and curricula in K-12 schools could provide much needed jobs for professional philosophers (as is already common in numerous countries around the world, such as France, Germany, and Italy, among others). Introducing philosophy to students prior to college can also help generate greater interest in our discipline and a general awareness of philosophical practice that is often lacking given the current isolation of the discipline to institutions of higher education.
But aside from these practical reasons (which are important but secondary in my mind) those of us practicing this work realize that children already do ask philosophical questions and are enthusiastic about philosophical conversations when given the opportunity to engage in them, or when given the space to be/be recognized as philosophers (as opposed to mere recipients of information and lessons). Jana Mohr Lone captures this approach to working with children well in Wondering Aloud: Philosophy with Young People, as does Thomas Wartenberg in his Teaching Children Philosophy.
In practicing philosophy with younger populations we are attempting to extend a form of recognition and communication that is, at times, lacking in adult-child interactions. We work against a historical and contemporary trend in Western philosophy (among other disciplines) that represents the child as a deficient being, lacking the abilities, interests, and concerns of the (often highly idealized) adult. Adults and children are different, to be sure, but the grounds of this difference are often highly exaggerated when it comes to areas such as intelligence, rationality, responsibility, etc. But regardless of these distinctions it seems clear that philosophical ability, wonder, questioning, and investigation is not the sole province of the adult, but is also well within the grasp of children.
Many pre-college philosophers also contend that a philosophical education and related forms of pedagogy would mark a substantial improvement in pre-college education generally, both in terms of the development of important skill sets (higher order thinking, critical questioning, discussion skills, etc.) and in terms of student motivation and interest. The latter would be advanced as students are given the opportunity to engage dialogically with each other in regard to philosophical issues that are of fundamental import in their lives as developing human beings (as all of us are).
I can say from over a decade of experience working with children of just about all ages that they need not be convinced to do philosophy. Children are already interested in philosophy and practice it in their own way(s). Indeed, at some point in our lives all of us ask and seek answers to philosophical questions. Professional philosophers are only different in that they happen to make this process their life’s work. My posts this week have been a very brief introduction to resources and discussions of expanding philosophical work beyond the academy in K-12 schools. If you found these items interesting or intriguing I encourage you to continue exploring this work and join others in advancing these efforts.
But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.
In true Rustic style, I have been lucky to spend the past few weeks on a whirlwind adventure. Unlike past summers where my travels were accompanied by shovels and muddy boots slung in the back of a pickup truck, this year I have been tasked with traversing the US to attend some of the biggest education summits in the country.
This is the first of seven summers that I wasn’t, as we say, “on the ground” with Rustic Pathways. I spent the past six years as the Director of USA Programs working with students, teachers, guides, and local communities to create experiences for hundreds of young people and their schools here in the United States. The Rustic experience is a special one for everyone involved:
movement: the attempt to bring philosophy, history, literature and other
related arts out of the classroom and into the general public. For me, it took
the form of founding and directing the Institute for Philosophy in
Public Life (IPPL), a partnership between UND and the North Dakota Humanities Council. We
have a radio show, a film
series, a blog,
series, an annual
magazine, and a fellows
program. With all of this in mind, Bill asked me to reflect on the
difference between teaching in the classroom and teaching towards the general
public, a task that is made more difficult by the fact that I am reluctant to
consider any of my IPPL work as “teaching” at all.
Jack Russell Weinstein is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life at the University of North Dakota. He is the host of the radio show Why? Philosophical Discussions about Everyday Life and the author of its blog, PQED. He generously agreed to author a guest post* on the meanings and methods of public philosophy. Comments welcome!
Public philosophy as a sub-discipline is in an exciting, but chaotic time. Changes in technology and funding models, combined with an effort to democratize philosophy, have inspired many academics to venture outside the ivory tower. They take their first steps enthusiastically and then…what? It’s hard to acquire and retain an audience; it’s even harder to stay motivated, and it’s virtually impossible to get research credit for the work. These are not new issues but things are better than they used to be.
For more, see: PLATO: Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization
For the full article, see: Preconditions for an Actually Democratic Society | The NewJurist
For the full post, see: Toward an Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age | Christopher P. Long
Every morning, as the Virginia sun spills over the rim of the Shenandoah Valley, I dive into the water of my municipal swimming pool and think of ruined Roman baths. On either end of the lane in which I take my laps are blue tile letters, mortared just beneath the waterline by a craftsman of the century gone by. I read two words as I swim back and forth: shallow and deep, shallow and deep.
I’m here to give a talk that likewise wants to glide from shallows to depths in turn. My hope is to position our work—the work of the DH community that has nurtured me with kindness for some 18 years—less as it is lately figured (that is, less as a fragmenting set of methodological interventions in the contemporary, disciplinary agon of humanities scholarship) and more as one cohesive and improbably hopeful possibility. The possibility is for strongly connecting technologies and patterns of work in the humanities to deep time: both to times long past and very far in prospect. But I’ll swim to the shallows, too—because, by musing about the messages we may attempt to send and receive in the longest of longues durées, I mean also to encourage a searching and an active stance in DH, toward our present moment—toward engagement with the technological, environmental, and ethical conditions of our vital here-and-now.
For the full post, see: digital humanities in the anthropocene « Bethany Nowviskie
I had an interesting conversation about Plato’s Ring of Gyges story with the fourth grade class I’ve been teaching at John Muir Elementary School. As is my usual practice, I read the students the story and we began talking about what they would do if they had a ring that allowed them to become invisible, and whether the character Glaucon is right when he contends that people act morally only because they are afraid of the consequences if they don’t.