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The Relevance of Analytic Philosophy to Personal, Public, and Democratic Life

31 January 2014


Increasingly, philosophy is being viewed by the public as a non-essential part of non-academic, political life. Moreover, the converse, that philosophy is viewing itself as non-essential to life, is also becoming true. Both trends are deeply troubling. This essay has two aims, both of which stem from these trends. The first is to show that they can partly be explained by a misunderstanding by philosophers of philosophy’s original goals. In fact, we argue that the goal of philosophy from the very beginning was to improve lives and that this attitude has been present throughout its history. The second is to show that this mistake is pervasive and to try to articulate some of what has been lost as a result. So as to not be entirely negative, we provide brief remarks on what can be done to remedy the situation. We hold that generally, people’s lives and especially people’s political lives are worse than they otherwise might be because of the disconnect between the public and philosophy. Finally, we close with a few practical activities that some philosophers are already engaged in to make work in philosophy more public.


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