A Place For Public Philosophy: Reviving A Practice (Paperback)
I was the last person to be dropped off on a shuttle from Phoenix to Sedona. The shuttle driver, who was friendly and decidedly chatty, asked, "So where do you work?" "NAU," I replied. "What do you do?" "I teach." "What do you teach?" "Philosophy." Silence followed. On a two-hour drive, philosophy was the only topic that left this driver speechless. There was a long pause as we continued north on Highway 179 with Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock coming in to view. "Sure is pretty out here," he finally managed. This is a guy who had something to say about every topic under the sun since we left Phoenix. But when it came to philosophy, well, he just couldn't think of a thing. I think my driver's reaction to philosophy is representative of what the average American thinks when it comes to philosophy-not much. Americans do not think much of philosophy in that they do not have a high regard for it. Further, Americans do not think much about philosophy because, for the most part, they do not think philosophically.1 To the extent that they do, they often confuse philosophy with one of the following: self-indulgent navel-gazing (what would you do with that major?), a motto we live by (Early to bed, early to rise...), or abstruse musings that lack practical significance (...so for knowledge of myself I require, besides the consciousness, that is, besides the thought of myself, an intuition of the manifold in me...).2 Philosophers seem either unable to articulate-or are perhaps just uninterested in articulating-the value of philosophical activity to a more general audience, i.e., to those other than professional academic philosophers.