The Importance of Public Philosophy and the Role of Impression Management in Everyday Life

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Aug 05, 2023

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The Importance of Public Philosophy and the Role of Impression Management in Everyday Life

In a world filled with information overload and constant social interactions, it becomes essential to engage in critical thinking and rational discourse. This is where the concept of public philosophy comes into play. Public philosophy, as an activity, aims to promote rational thinking in anyone it can reach. It serves as a catalyst to thought, encouraging individuals to reflect critically on what they thought they knew.

But what exactly is public philosophy? It can be identified by its purpose - to introduce the audience to the philosophical practice of thinking critically. It goes beyond the confines of academia and reaches out to a nonprofessional audience in public venues. The aim is to stimulate, guide, and exercise cognitive capacities such as analysis, conceptualization, and criticism. By making these tools available to all, philosophy becomes public in the truest sense.

However, public philosophy is not a cure-all solution. It acknowledges that not everyone has equal cognitive capacities and aims to bridge that gap. It invites individuals to think philosophically and provides them with the necessary tools to do so. Public philosophy is rooted in the belief that thinking philosophically or rationally has inherent value, although this assumption may not be universally accepted.

In a similar vein, Erving Goffman's book, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life," delves into the nuances of social interaction by using the imagery of theater. Goffman presents the dramaturgical model of social life, where individuals play various roles in everyday interactions. Social interaction is akin to a theater production, with individuals acting on a front stage before an audience and a backstage where they can relax and be themselves.

Impression management is central to Goffman's theory. It refers to the process through which individuals present themselves and behave in a way that avoids embarrassment. Each performance delivers impressions that confirm the identity of the actor in a given situation. Appearance and manner play crucial roles in this process. Appearance communicates social statuses and temporary social roles, while manner warns the audience about how the performer will act in a role.

However, inconsistencies and contradictions between appearance and manner can confuse and upset the audience. The front stage, as labeled by Goffman, is where individuals define the situation for the audience. It is the image or impression they give off. Social scripts, or stereotyped expectations, become institutionalized in certain situations, guiding the behavior and interactions of actors.

The backstage region, on the other hand, is where individuals can shed the roles they play on the front stage and truly be themselves. It is a place of authenticity, where people can let go of the expectations and pressures of social performance.

When we connect the concepts of public philosophy and impression management, we see a common thread - the importance of critical thinking and self-awareness. Public philosophy encourages individuals to think critically and engage in rational discourse, while impression management emphasizes the need to navigate social interactions and maintain a desired image.

To make the most of these ideas, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Engage in public philosophy: Seek out opportunities to participate in public philosophical discussions or events. This could involve attending lectures, joining online forums, or even starting your own philosophical conversations with friends and family. By actively engaging in public philosophy, you can broaden your perspective and strengthen your critical thinking skills.
  • 2. Reflect on your own impression management: Take some time to reflect on how you present yourself in different social settings. Are you being authentic, or are you conforming to societal expectations? By becoming more self-aware, you can consciously shape your own image and ensure that it aligns with your values and beliefs.
  • 3. Embrace the backstage: Just like actors have a backstage where they can relax and be themselves, it's important to find spaces in your life where you can let go of social roles and expectations. Whether it's through hobbies, alone time, or trusted relationships, create a space where you can be authentic and recharge.

In conclusion, the concepts of public philosophy and impression management intersect in their emphasis on critical thinking and self-awareness. Public philosophy serves as a catalyst to thought, promoting rational discourse in the public sphere. Meanwhile, impression management highlights the role we play in social interactions and the need for authenticity. By incorporating these ideas into our lives, we can navigate the complexities of society while staying true to ourselves.

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