Who Teaches Philosophy?

I just want to make a quick addendum to my most recent post. I wrote:

That’s actually a better articulation of the difference principle than I got in my own class on Rawls. But more importantly, it’s a critical perspective that, while highly influential among political philosophers and liberal intellectuals, is completely absent from the broader public debate.

That’s partially because the political soundbite culture is more friendly to dispositions and inclinations than cohesive theories of justice.

That’s everyone’s fault. Part of the reason why I’ve been writing about political philosophy so much lately is because I’m tired of bemoaning the lack of popular understanding regarding this issues. If we–meaning liberals and people who care about these questions in general–want people to learn, we need to fucking explain.

Incidentally, I no longer have any patience for arguments like, “The general public is dumb, we need to keep things simple when explaining it to them.” Besides being obnoxious and condescending, it’s an abdication of moral responsibility. Because just being photogenic and having a soothing voice may get you elected and in a position to exert some small amount of influence on national affairs, but it’s not a long term solution. Instilling in people a sense of the philosophical principles we believe in, and more importantly, a sense of how to deal with the questions from which we derived those principles, is.

Besides, the 2008 campaign convinced me that it’s ludicrous to assume you can’t command a broad base of support while also inserting complex ideas into your public statements. Remember that guy from Illinois, who did the big speech on race? He did pretty well, didn’t he?

2 Responses

  1. The point I was making in my reblog on Tumblr is that for political philosophy to be mandatory in public high schools requires a curricular mandate from the federal government. I don’t see many states or school boards giving up the right to determine curriculum control. It would take grassroots at the most local of levels to attain that…

  2. True enough. This post wasn’t a response to what you wrote, and I agree that handing down that sort of mandate from the federal government is problematic.

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