The Importance of Public Philosophy in Society


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Aug 06, 2023

3 min read


The Importance of Public Philosophy in Society

Wittgenstein's view on public philosophy suggests that there are resemblances between the things we call by the same name, just as there are shared characteristics in a family related by blood. This implies that there is no single defining feature of public philosophy, but rather a cluster of important features that it shares.

To identify public philosophy, we must understand its purpose. The question we should ask is: Why do we engage in public philosophy? The main goal of public philosophy is to encourage critical thinking and reflection among its audience. It aims to demonstrate underlying distinctions and connections, reveal implicit assumptions, and explore potential implications of a given thesis.

Public philosophy serves as a catalyst for thought. It introduces the audience to the practice of thinking critically and challenges their preconceived notions. It is an activity that takes place in public venues and is directed towards a nonprofessional audience. Its ultimate aim is to promote rational thinking in anyone it can reach.

One might argue that the distinction between academic and public philosophy lies in the intended target. Academic philosophy is often directed towards scholars and experts, whereas public philosophy aims to engage a wider audience. However, good public philosophy embraces the rigorous practice of thinking that academic philosophy entails. It recognizes that not everyone possesses the same cognitive capacities and seeks to stimulate, guide, and exercise these abilities.

By making conceptual and operational tools accessible to all, philosophy becomes truly public. It invites everyone to think philosophically and empowers individuals to engage in meaningful conversations about important matters. It challenges the notion that thinking philosophically or rationally is a skill reserved for a select few.

While public philosophy is not a panacea for all societal issues, it plays a crucial role in promoting rational thinking in society. Despite historical difficulties and personal weaknesses, philosophers have the ability to stimulate meaningful public discussions about what truly matters. Rational thinking should be valued for its own sake, and public philosophy serves as a vehicle for cultivating this mindset.

In conclusion, public philosophy serves as a catalyst for critical thinking and reflection. Its purpose is to engage a nonprofessional audience in philosophical discourse and promote rational thinking. By providing accessible tools and inviting everyone to think philosophically, public philosophy empowers individuals to participate in meaningful conversations about important societal matters. To harness the power of public philosophy, we can take the following actionable steps:

  • 1. Promote philosophy in public venues: Organize events, discussions, and workshops in accessible locations to engage a wider audience.
  • 2. Integrate philosophy in education: Incorporate philosophical thinking and critical analysis skills into school curricula to foster rational thinking from a young age.
  • 3. Embrace diversity of perspectives: Encourage the inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in public philosophical discussions to enrich the discourse and promote a more inclusive society.

By implementing these practices, we can harness the potential of public philosophy and cultivate a society that values critical thinking and rationality.

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