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April 3rd, 2020 12:58:37 pm

Supporting Public Philosophy

Two Lives and Three Strategies (version 2)

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In this article, I aim to make a contribution to ongoing conversations regarding sustaining and advancing public philosophy within and beyond the academy. I frame institutional challenges faced by public philosophers in terms of the two lives problem, the disjunctive experience of balancing both traditional requirements for employment and advancement in professional philosophy with the intensive work required by many public philosophy projects. In response, I outline three strategies for supporting public philosophy: collaboration, reframing evaluation, and advocacy. [This is a revised version of the original posted here:

1. Introduction

When presenting on public philosophy to academic audiences the most common (and most pressing) questions I receive concern how one can sustain public philosophy projects while advancing within the academy. These question-askers aren’t in need of convincing about the merits of public philosophy, nor are they primarily interested in definitional questions that mark the boundaries between academic and public-facing work. They are already interested in and, in many cases, deeply committed to practicing public philosophy. They are graduate students writing dissertations while also leading philosophy outreach programs, visiting professors volunteering to teach philosophy to incarcerated students, or early career, tenure-track faculty who are passionate about public scholarship but worry about its devaluation when it comes to promotion and tenure decisions. They are also senior scholars balancing interests in public philosophy with high research and institutional service demands. In diverse ways, they want to know: How do I support and sustain my work as a publicly-engaged philosopher?

I take this question as the inspiration for this article. My aim is to provide useful guidance and stoke continuing discussion on supporting publicly engaged students and faculty. While not all public philosophy originates within the academy, many of the most influential public philosophy programs and projects are driven by academic philosophers, whether undergraduate and graduate students or faculty members.(1) In addition, there are distinct challenges to doing public philosophy as a member of the academy – issues relating to job attainment and advancement, professional recognition, and work load, for example – that, by and large, are not relevant for the non-academic practitioner of public philosophy but that need to be addressed. If we can find ways to reduce institutional challenges to academic philosophers practicing public philosophy then we can also create greater access to philosophy for the general public.

Many philosophers have already advanced our understanding of the different forms public philosophy can take, ranging from field philosophy and philosophy for children, to service-learning and activism, to podcasts and op-eds (amongst many other forms).(2) Alongside these practical examples, others argue for the recognition of public philosophy as a valuable form of philosophical practice deserving of greater recognition in the academy and, in turn, for better support structures for sustaining publicly-engaged philosophers.(3) In this article, I pick up where many of these discussions leave off, focusing on central areas for supporting practitioners of public philosophy in the academy and the growth of public philosophy. Following a brief framing of challenges faced by public philosophers in the academy, I outline three primary strategies for sustaining public philosophy in and beyond the academy: collaboration, reframing evaluation, and advocacy. While these strategies are not exhaustive I aim to make a contribution to ongoing conversations in our field regarding concrete strategies for sustaining and advancing public philosophy within and beyond the academy.  

2. Public Philosophy and the Two Lives Problem

In this article I am not primarily focused on defining or providing a taxonomy of public philosophy. Instead, I use a stipulative definition of public philosophy as a philosophical practice that engages and/or collaborates with stakeholders beyond the academy toward the end of improving our communities.(4) This definition is not comprehensive of every way we might think of public philosophy but it includes central elements as understood by those who participate in and write about this practice.(5) Many prominent accounts of public philosophy define this practice (or set of practices) as including one or more of the following components:

(1) a form of philosophy that reaches beyond the boundaries of the university, (2) that includes engagement or collaboration with a non-academic audience, and (3) that includes a focus on achieving some good, whether epistemic, ethical, or social-political.

As Adam Kostko contends, this is a “golden age” for public philosophy understood in these terms.(6) Public philosophy programs founded and led by philosophers exist in diverse forms all over the world. Philosophy professional organizations such as the Public Philosophy Network, the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, and, also, the American Philosophical Association, explicitly support publicly engaged work through grant opportunities, conferences, and professional recognition. Numerous public philosophy blogs and podcasts (e.g. Philosophy Bakes Bread and The UnMute Podcast) exist alongside scholarly journals (e.g. Public Philosophy Journal and Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice) dedicated to advancing research on public-facing philosophical work. And, as cited above, professional philosophers have increasingly devoted intellectual support to public-facing work, contributing articles and books to the exploration and defense of public philosophy as a valuable and vital form of professional philosophy.  

And, yet, as evidenced by the testimony of public philosophers employed in the academy, substantial obstacles for starting and sustaining publicly engaged work remain. As C. Thi Nguyen put it in his “Manifesto for Public Philosophy”:

There are so many barriers to entry [to public philosophy]. First of all, the disciplinary incentives don’t support public philosophy. For most of us, writing op-eds and making YouTube videos doesn’t help you get a job, get tenure, or get promoted…Our discipline actively resists public philosophy.(7) 

In previous work, I tried to capture these and related challenges in terms of the two lives problem,(8) the disjunctive experience of publicly engaged philosophers as they juggle both the traditional requirements for employment and advancement in their institution (generally categorized in terms of contributions in teaching and research, with additional, minor attention paid to service) alongside the time and energy intensive work required to develop public philosophy project(s). These areas of labor – the traditional-academic and the public-facing – are placed in tension for the public philosopher because public-facing work is, in most cases, not regarded (or counted at all) as making a substantive contribution to one’s work and status as a professional philosopher. As Linda Martín Alcoff notes, disciplinary philosophy generally employs a value system that “confers no credit at all” to public-facing work that reaches “beyond university discussions and academic journals and that answers the common rhetorical call most universities make to be of service beyond their campus boundaries.”(9) 

Instead, public philosophy projects are considered secondary, or supererogatory; they are valued by departments and institutions for media promotion arising from a public event or as contributions to the greater community. But they are not to be confused in job applications or tenure and promotion committees with the actual work (the narrowly defined research and classroom teaching) of the professional philosopher. Thus, if they wish to gain employment and remain employed in the academy, publicly engaged philosophers must both excel at the traditional requirements of disciplinary philosophy and, also, do the necessary work to cultivate relevant partnerships, raise funding, create programming, and lead their public-facing projects. Faced with a decision between multiple, time and energy intensive professional commitments, and given the lack of recognition provided to public-facing work in the evaluations that count most, many academically employed philosophers choose to reduce, abandon, or postpone their public facing work.

A central challenge for the public philosopher, then, lies in a lack of fit between publicly engaged work and dominant norms for valuable philosophical practice in the academy. To better understand the tension here, we can turn to Kristie Dotson’s distinction between a culture of justification and a culture of praxis.(10) Dotson describes the discipline of philosophy as permeated by a culture of justification, “a culture that privileges legitimation according to presumed commonly-held, univocally relevant justifying norms.”(11) Philosophers gain (or lose) standing and positive status for their projects based on their congruency with these justifying norms. One can choose to contest this culture and its rigid system of value for philosophical work, but, as Dotson notes, this involves disproportionate challenges for the diverse practitioner of philosophy:  

The burden of shifting justifying norms within a professional environment that manifests symptoms of a culture of justification involves sacrificing one’s labor and energies towards providing a catalyst for change via numerous legitimating narratives aimed at gaining positive status for oneself as a philosopher and one’s projects as philosophical. Let me make the strong statement that shouldering this burden and the set of experiences one exposes oneself to is not a livable option for many would-be diverse practitioners of philosophy and the small numbers of under-represented populations within professional philosophy attest to this observation.(12) 

By contrast, Dotson argues for “multiple philosophical canons and a fragmentation of justifying norms (including new and developing justifying norms).”(13) In the shift to a culture of praxis the possibilities for philosophical contributions are greatly expanded as value is placed on philosophers “seeking issues and circumstances pertinent to our living, where one maintains a healthy appreciation for the differing issues that will emerge as pertinent among different populations.”(14) Given the diversity of vital issues and areas of concern within our communities, philosophical contributions and norms are not monolithic. Rather, a culture of praxis allows for the recognition of many kinds of and aims for practicing philosophy, along with multiple forms of validation.

Given the diversity of its methods and goals, public philosophy can be usefully understood in terms of a culture of praxis. While all public philosophy will share some overarching norms (e.g. a commitment to engage and/or collaborate with the public), the specific publics to be engaged and the specific goals and outcomes sought will differ widely. For example, the philosophy for children practitioner and the philosophy podcast host both aim to engage publics beyond the academy. However, the former seeks collaboration with, say, a group of young philosophers in a middle school classroom through the medium of interpersonal dialogue and argument mapping, whereas the latter engages a broader public through entertaining and thought-provoking narratives and discussion of philosophical concepts. Both are valuable forms of public philosophy and both address interests and issues relevant to the communities they serve.  

The two lives problem also serves as a common experience for these public philosophers. It is rare that either of these projects and the research, collaboration-building, and expertise required to do them well would be credited as relevant knowledge production or application for the purposes of promotion. Rather, many philosophers participating in these and related projects experience a sense of incongruence with and, also, a lack of validation from dominant disciplinary norms. This, along with related issues of professional recognition, funding, and administrative support (amongst others) make substantial projects difficult to sustain over the long term. Thus, even if, conceptually, through a culture of praxis, we can understand and argue for the value of public philosophy we must still attend to the concrete realities of public philosophers in the academy. To that end, it is important to find ways to reduce the two lives problem and support public scholarship and engagement as a valued form of professional practice.

3.  Strategies for Institutional Support

Despite the continuing growth of public philosophy through the efforts of many individuals, departments, and organizations, sustaining this growth long term is difficult without greater strategic and institutional awareness. Local efforts to sustain public philosophy will include attention to the distinctive needs of a given project or program, whether securing financial and material resources, building relevant partnerships, recruiting participants, or simply finding the time needed to carry out the publicly engaged work in question. Alongside and in collaboration with these individual efforts, it is important to attend to disciplinary norms that devalue or, conversely, that have the potential to support publicly engaged philosophers. Norms inform institutional practices, including faculty hiring and funding decisions, evaluations of excellent (and poor) philosophical work, and tenure and promotion. And, in turn, these practices directly impact the possible career paths open to and sustainable for professional philosophers. Resolving the two lives problem, then, involves revising the structure of professional philosophy such that public engagement is not merely regarded as extracurricular or supererogatory service, but rather, as a valued career path for professional philosophers.

In this section I discuss three areas of focus for working toward greater institutional support for public philosophy. These areas of focus are not exhaustive; they are influenced both by my own experience as an academically-employed public philosopher (now spanning 12 years, including founding and/or leading several large-scale philosophy outreach programs and organizations in the U.S. and substantial philosophical fieldwork in K-12 schools and prisons, amongst other contexts) and by the current efforts of several professional and public philosophy organizations, including (but not limited to) the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, the Public Philosophy Network, and Imagining America. Given that significant challenges remain for public philosophers in our discipline, I offer these strategies to catalyze further discussion and consideration of next steps in supporting philosophy as a public practice.

3.1 Collaboration

Philosophical training in the academy can reinforce isolation, whether through the privileging of solo-authored scholarship or, physically and intellectually, through placement in siloed departments. As Frodeman and Briggle describe it:

The interlocking elements of our institutional life create a supportive web for solitary habits. The campus is an enclave set off from the community, just as on campus philosophers are ghettoized from our colleagues in the other disciplines.(15) 

This isolation is not exclusive to philosophers. Consider, for example, the structural separation of academic departments from traditionally publicly engaged units on college and university campuses more generally. In their report on supporting publicly engaged scholarship in higher education, Julie Ellison and Timothy K. Eatman describe this separation in terms of “two cultures”:

There is a ‘two-cultures’ problem on many campuses. The normative academic culture is made up of departments, deans’ offices, professional societies, national and local faculty networks, journals and conferences, and institutes. There is also a thriving culture, or counter culture, of engagement. This tends to be located in ‘extraterritorial’ units: centers for community service learning, undergraduate living-learning communities, outreach offices.(16)

 An essential feature of supporting philosophy requires transcending these separations to create productive pathways for collaboration between philosophers, departments, campus programs, and professional organizations oriented toward public engagement.

For one, there are several practical benefits to these and related collaborations. Public philosophy projects and programs are springing up all over the U.S.(17) Many philosophy outreach programs, for example, are formed by undergraduate and graduate students or early-career faculty members (often carrying their publicly engaged commitments and ambitions on from graduate school) working in isolation from similar programs and projects across the U.S. (and, in some cases, on their own campuses). This, taken by itself, is not problematic; diversity in programs that are responsive to the unique needs of their communities is a virtue. But, as experienced public philosophers will tell you, starting programs is significantly easier than sustaining them over the long term. Tremendous effort goes into establishing outreach programs, finding key contacts, recruiting participants, and gaining necessary funding. And when graduate students complete their dissertations and move on, or when an early career faculty member’s teaching or service load increases, it is common for outreach programs to falter, fade, and eventually fall away.

Through greater collaboration – between outreach programs or between academic departments and service-learning and ethics institutes, for example – the amount of time and energy spent “recreating the wheel,” developing strategies, materials, and re-learning well-worn lessons could be reduced. For example, established public philosophy programs and organizations could share resources for developing outreach projects and, also, share models for collecting and evaluating program impacts and materials for advocacy within one’s institution and for the greater public.(18) In short, as public philosophy projects and programs continue to grow it is important to avoid the habits of isolation and parochialism common to the academy and embrace opportunities for collaboration and coalition-building.  

Given that public philosophy is still not widely supported in our discipline, collaboration is also a key means for public philosophers to amplify their voices and create communities of support and recognition for public-facing work. For example, alliances between major networks for public philosophy can help provide legitimacy and institutional pathways for public philosophers to follow. Indeed, this is one of the fundamental reasons for the establishment of one of the most influential networks in support of public philosophy. Sharon Meagher, a co-founder of the Public Philosophy Network, points to the founding of this organization, in part, as intended to “provide a space for publicly engaged philosophers to work together to address barriers within the academy to their work.”(19) Other organizations such as the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering, and Society of Philosophers in America also play important roles in supporting and networking for publicly engaged philosophers.

But in addition to work within public philosophy organizations, there is still substantial room for collaboration between organizations. With greater inter-organizational collaboration could come greater opportunities and support for public philosophers. These collaborations could include (and, in some cases, these efforts are already underway):  

  • Co-funding public philosophy award, grant, and internship opportunities for publicly engaged undergraduate and graduate students and early career faculty
  • Shared board membership opportunities (e.g. creating opportunities for public philosophy organization leadership to share knowledge and resources and consider opportunities for coalition building for targeted ends)
  • Establish inter-organizational working groups and subcommittees for better communication and coordinated action between public philosophers (e.g. a public philosophy research and advocacy committee or a working-group on funding and grant opportunities for early career public philosophers)
  • Creating a national network of mentorship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and early career professionals, drawn from the membership of major public philosophy and public humanities organizations  

3.2 Making Public Philosophy “Count”: Reframing Academic Evaluation

Several commentators have identified reframing academic evaluation criteria (especially those used for promotion and tenure) as a central strategy for supporting public philosophy.(20) As Christopher Meyers notes, “public philosophy just isn’t a natural fit within the traditional academic model, or at least not given the ways in which we categorize, in particular, scholarship and service.”(21) Meyers demonstrates that the work of public philosophers often runs across the artificial boundaries of research, teaching and service that are central to departmental systems of evaluation. As a result, Sharon Meagher notes, “work must be done within the academy to transform evaluative strategies so that publicly engaged intellectual work ‘counts.’”(22) 

A comprehensive discussion of transforming academic evaluative strategies is beyond the scope of this article. But, to start, and following on the merits of collaboration discussed above, it is important to recognize the “fellow travelers” beyond public philosophy from whom we can learn useful lessons. In many cases, public philosophers are facing evaluative challenges and developing responses that have already been introduced by other publicly engaged academic communities. Indeed, it is striking how parallel are many of the challenges faced by publicly engaged scholars across the academy as a whole. Corresponding to these shared challenges, there are also possibilities for collective action and knowledge-sharing between these institutionally separated groups.

Consider public history, a subdiscipline whose institutional challenges mirror those of public philosophy. The Working Group on Evaluating Public History Scholarship (a collaborative research and advocacy team composed of members of the American Historical Association, the National Council on Public History, and the Organization of American Historians) identifies the privileging of a limited view of scholarship (e.g. single-authored monographs and peer-reviewed journal articles) along with rigid views of what constitutes teaching (e.g. teaching is exclusively what occurs in the university classroom) as institutional barriers to public historians. As used in many departmental evaluations, the categories of scholarship and teaching do not accurately reflect the work of public historians and, so, the Working Group argues for “an equitable system of peer review and the redefinition of workload categories to more fairly recognize publicly engaged scholars.”(23) 

One key factor in revising workload categories – for public historians and philosophers alike – involves acknowledging the multiple dimensions of scholarship. This includes relinquishing a view of public engagement and scholarship as occupying separate domains and, instead, recognizing diverse forms of scholarship as occurring on a “continuum of knowledge and knowledge-making practices.”(24) For example, on this evaluative continuum, the traditional and individualistic work of the academic scholar would still be credited but, on another side of the continuum, the collaborative, knowledge-producing work that is often a hallmark of the public philosopher (e.g. in research and policy collaborations with NGO’s; ethics consultations for hospitals, schools, and news organizations; or the designing of curricula and presentations for community-based workshops) could also be recognized as scholarly and creative contributions. This continuum could also be used to assess not only a project’s knowledge contributions, but also, its application and contribution to the public good (a common goal of public philosophy projects). Appropriately adapted and implemented in tenure and promotion criteria, this continuum could credit multiple forms of scholarship and also acknowledge what publicly engaged philosophers already know: engaged work is often a vital part of and/or motivation for our scholarship that includes the application, production, and transformation of knowledge.(25) 

In addition to reframing categories of evaluation it is also important to attend to the common critique that public philosophy lacks connection to clear standards and is not subject to peer-review, a hallmark of scholarly evaluation in the academy. As Jack Russell Weinstein notes:

Peer review is public philosophy’s antithesis. And, because most professional philosophers see their work as analogous to research in science, the lack of explicit connection to a community of scholars who can vouch for its quality, relevance, and reproducibility, means that public philosophy loses a key component of its academic legitimacy.(26)

Part of this challenge, again, stems from a narrow view of what constitutes scholarship (e.g. it is not clear to me that most professional philosophers view their research as akin to research in science). But, still, along with a continuum of multiple scholarships, we will need correspondingly flexible evaluative mechanisms. One method that is already being implemented at several universities are professional practice portfolios used by public scholars to document their research and teaching. Alongside traditional scholarly products (such as peer-reviewed articles), this portfolio could include a narrative statement linking one’s public-facing work to central questions in the discipline and detailing the contributions and future directions of one’s project. In addition, this portfolio could include evaluation letters and testimonials from community partners and documentation of artifacts produced through one’s public engagement.(27) 

The adoption of portfolios and other measures for evaluating public philosophy also calls for redefining who counts as a relevant “peer” for peer-review. In addition to having senior scholars and practitioners of public philosophy serve as reviewers for tenure and promotion there is a need, more broadly, to consult the public with which philosophers engage. In many cases, these are the individuals who understand relevant impacts (or lack thereof) of our projects best and, provided with sufficient structure and guidance on a review process, can be well-positioned to critically evaluate its benefits, contributions, and areas for further development. For example, the evaluators I have in mind include the classroom teacher hosting and providing feedback on our pedagogy in philosophy for children sessions, selected audience members attending our public-facing lectures and workshops, or the NGO and community group leaders with whom public philosophers collaborate in the field. In addition, to the extent we are successful in creating additional pathways and incentives for people trained in philosophy to work in the public sector, these individuals would be well positioned to evaluate public philosophy projects in a range of ways that reach across both community partners and academic philosophers. This, in turn, relates to my discussion of disciplinary norms above. Currently, academic jobs are often presented as the only measure of success for philosophy graduate students. But the reality is that many philosophy students already go on to non-academic careers and, in those roles, can do meaningful work, including in ways that help broaden conceptions of public philosophy.(28) 

If this broadening of peer-review seems far-fetched, recall the significant weight we apply to teaching evaluations and the testimonies of students regarding faculty skills, outcomes, and overall success in teaching a course (especially when these comments show clear trends across several classes). Likewise, it is beneficial to continue to find ways to more directly countenance the insights and “lived expertise” of our community collaborators. This will require changes to current systems of academic evaluation and, possibly, could include revising the structure of tenure and promotion committees to include community representatives. But given both the current lack of understanding and credit given to public philosophy projects in academic evaluations and, also, the fundamental commitment of public philosophy to engage stakeholders beyond the academy, the inclusion of public feedback in evaluations is a promising strategy for supporting public philosophy.

3.3 Advocating for Public Philosophy

The importance of advocating for public philosophy is, in part, aligned with creating greater public awareness and valuation of philosophy as a whole. Citing the closure of philosophy departments and threats to humanities programs, more generally, several commentators argue for the need for professional philosophy to demonstrate its greater relevance to the public beyond campus. As Lee McIntyre writes:

If we are not serving our students, the larger society, or making connections with other disciplines – if we are not prepared to defend philosophy, use it in the larger world, and show others why it is so important – we shouldn’t be surprised if philosophy begins to disappear even within the one place where we thought it would be protected: the university.(29)

Public philosophy is well positioned to demonstrate this relevance and, what is more, to directly engage the public in the goods of philosophy. One element of advocating for public philosophy (and the value of philosophy, more generally) involves supporting and publicizing public philosophy programs that do this work well. To name just a few examples (I could list many more here), Ian Olasov’s work with the Ask a Philosopher Booth, Barry Lam’s podcast Hi-Phi Nation, and numerous colleagues leading philosophy in schools/for youths programs (for example, the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children, Corrupt the Youth, and the National High School Ethics Bowl) all provide examples of public-facing programs that successfully engage non-academic audiences and demonstrate the value of philosophy for diverse populations in the larger world.

Alongside these programs, advocacy efforts can take many forms and can be adapted as needed to one’s institution or academic community. For one, service roles within departments and universities could be developed with an eye toward advocating for public engagement and making greater connections between campus and community.(30) These service roles can range from digital media and public outreach to public-facing workshops on pressing issues in one’s community to developing an accessible lecture series that facilitates interaction and greater understanding between faculty, students, and broader community members, among many other possibilities. Second, advocacy efforts can follow the example of some of our leading professional organizations in creating formal statements, public articles, and White Papers that educate our colleagues about public philosophy and its value (or use materials that already exist for this purpose).(31) Public philosophy programs excel at establishing meaningful campus-community partnerships, translate philosophical skill sets for application to pressing issues in our communities, and, also, meet the ends of community service claimed by universities. Pointing to these connections – in our conversations with colleagues and administrators; in our evaluation narratives; and in promotional materials for our public-facing projects  – is part of successful advocacy for public philosophy.(32) 

Ultimately, these and other forms of advocacy are reinforced by (and, also, have the potential to strengthen) strategies for collaboration and reframing evaluation as discussed above. Through the revision and creation of more equitable evaluation practices, public philosophers can devote more time to their engaged projects and, in doing so, create greater visibility for philosophy in the public realm. And, through inter-personal and inter-organizational collaboration, the reach and impact of public philosophy projects can be substantially increased. Thus, the three strategies presented here – collaboration, reframing evaluation, and advocacy – while incomplete, are reinforcing and mutually supporting. Taken together, they can reduce the need for two lives and continue to support the growth of public philosophy as a sustainable and valued practice for professional philosophers.


Alcoff, Linda Martín. “Does the Public Intellectual Have Intellectual Integrity?” Metaphilosophy

33, no. 5 (2002): 522-34.  

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for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990.

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and Public Philosophy.” Public Philosophy Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 1-14.

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Advocacy Toolkit.” American Philosophical Association, May 2019. Accessed January

12, 2020.  

Dotson, Kristie. “How Is This Paper Philosophy?” Comparative Philosophy 2, no. 1 (2012): 3-


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Visible: A Guide to Documenting Professional Service and Outreach. Washington D. C.:

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Policy in the Engaged University.” Syracuse: Imagining America (2008).

Frodeman, Robert, and Adam Briggle. Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.

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Accessed January 9, 2020.

Lake, Danielle. “Collaborative Engagement from Within the Academy: A Self-Reflexive

 Narrative.” E-Journal of Public Affairs 7, no. 1 (2018): 1-24.

Lam, Barry. “The Use of Narrative in Public Philosophy.” Precollege Philosophy and Public

Practice 1 (2019): 89-99.

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For Philosophy and the Public,” Blog of the APA, March 5, 2019. Accessed January 9,


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2011. Accessed January 12, 2020.

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the Kettering Foundation (2013): 1-18.

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Scholarship, and Service.’” Essays in Philosophy 15, no. 1 (2014): 58-76.

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Dialogue in Schools. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.

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9, 2020.

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  1.  Indeed, by and large, “public philosophy” is not a term or area of practice that the general public uses or even recognizes. See Justin Weinberg, “What Does the Public Call What We Call ‘Public Philosophy’?” Daily Nous, September 2, 2016.
  2.  For selected discussions of these forms of public philosophy see Barry Lam, “The Use of Narrative in Public Philosophy,” Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice 1 (2019); Jana Mohr Lone and Michael D. Burroughs, Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016); Julinna Oxley and Ramona Ilea, eds. Experiential Learning in Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 2016); Myisha Cherry, “Liberatory Dialogue,” Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice 1 (2019); and Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle, Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of Public Philosophy (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
  3.  See for example Christopher Meyers, “Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion: Rethinking ‘Teaching, Scholarship, and Service,” Essays in Philosophy 15, no. 1 (2014); and Linda Martín Alcoff, “Does the Public Intellectual Have Intellectual Integrity?” Metaphilosophy 33, no. 5 (2002).
  4.  As I note below in Section 1, while all public philosophy will share some overarching norms (e.g. a commitment to engage and/or collaborate with the public), the specific publics to be engaged and the specific goals and outcomes sought by communities can differ widely. In turn, what constitutes “improvement” for communities may also differ and, in some cases, will be highly context specific.
  5.  For texts that include related accounts of public philosophy see Jack Russell Weinstein, “What Does Public Philosophy Do? (Hint: It Does Not Make Better Citizens,” Essays in Philosophy 15, no. 1 (2014), 38; Meyers, “Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion,” 59, 70; Michael D. Burroughs and Desiree Valentine, “Toward Engaging a Broader Public: Children and Public Philosophy,” Public Philosophy Journal 1, no. 1 (2018), 2; and Sharon Meagher, “Public Philosophy: Revitalizing Philosophy as a Civic Discipline,” Report to the Kettering Foundation (2013), 8-13.
  6.  Adam Kotsko, “Public Engagement Is a Two-Way Street,” Inside Higher Ed, October 23, 2017,
  7.  C. Thi Nguyen, “Manifesto for Public Philosophy,” Daily Nous, July 1, 2019,
  8.  Michael D. Burroughs “How to Survive a Crisis: Reclaiming Philosophy as a Public Practice,” Palgrave Communications (2018)  
  9.  Alcoff, “Public Intellectual Integrity,” 522. For additional discussion of challenges to practicing public philosophy as a professional philosopher, see Meyers, “Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion: Rethinking ‘Teaching, Scholarship, and Service”; and Danielle Lake “Collaborative Engagement from Within the Academy: A Self-Reflexive Narrative,” E-Journal of Public Affairs 7, no. 1 (2018), 10-12.
  10.  Kristie Dotson, “How Is This Paper Philosophy?” Comparative Philosophy 2, no. 1 (2012).
  11.  Dotson, “How Is This Paper Philosophy?,” 6.
  12.  Dotson, “How Is This Paper Philosophy?,” 15.
  13.  Dotson, “How Is This Paper Philosophy?,” 18.
  14.  Dotson, “How Is This Paper Philosophy?,” 17.
  15.  Frodeman and Briggle, Socrates Tenured, 117.
  16.  Julie Ellison and Timothy K. Eatman, “Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University,” Imagining America (2008), 18-19.
  17.  For examples of philosophy outreach programs across the United States, see the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, “PLATO Programs: An Interactive Map of the U.S.,” For examples of the growth and diversity of public philosophy projects see (especially the comments section) Justin Weinberg, “Who Does Public Philosophy?,” Daily Nous, August 31, 2016,
  18.  For just one example of the kind of resource sharing I have in mind, see the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, “Downloadable Resources,” (including sample philosophy outreach grant proposals, policy and research for advocacy, a White Paper on the value of introducing philosophy in schools, and a sample email and cover letter for establishing a philosophy in schools collaboration),
  19.  Meagher, “Public Philosophy,” 14.
  20.  See, for example, Meyers, “Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion,” 64; and Meagher, “Public Philosophy,” 14.
  21.  Meyers, “Public Philosophy and Tenure/Promotion,” 64.
  22.  Meagher, “Public Philosophy,” 15.
  23.  Working Group on Evaluating Public History Scholarship, “Tenure, Promotion, and the Publicly Engaged Historian,” (White Paper, 2010), 3.
  24.  Ellison and Eatman, “Scholarship in Public,” viii.
  25.  The conception of multiple scholarships is influenced by the work of Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990).
  26.  Jack Russell Weinstein, “What Does Public Philosophy Do?” 36.
  27.  This is a practice endorsed and discussed by Ellison and Eatman, “Scholarship in Public,” 2, 13. For additional detail and examples of portfolios, see Amy Driscoll, E. A. Lynton, and Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards, Making Outreach Visible: A Guide to Documenting Professional Service and Outreach (Washington D. C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1999).
  28.  I thank Nancy McHugh for raising this point in her review of this article.
  29.  Lee McIntyre, “Making Philosophy Matter – or Else,” The Chronicle Review, December 11, 2011,
  30.  I thank Danielle Lake for raising this point in her review of this article.
  31.  For example, see APA Communications, “APA Statement on Valuing Public Philosophy,” Blog of the APA, May 18, 2017,; the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, “Why Philosophy? Why Now?,” (White Paper, 2016),; and Nancy McHugh, Evelyn Brister, Ian Olasov, and Todd Franklin, “Public Philosophy is Good – For Philosophy and the Public,” Blog of the APA, March 5, 2019,
  32.  For a wealth of public engagement and marketing ideas that can be adapted for advocacy purposes, see Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession (Sally Scholz, Chair), “APA Department Advocacy Toolkit,” American Philosophical Association, May 2019,  




Michael Burroughs


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