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I’ve done my fair share of ragging on The Stone, the New York Times’ paved-with-good-intentions attempt at bringing philosophy to a wider audience, but this pair of essays, intended to respond to the all-too-common complaint that philosophy is too abstract and esoteric to have anything to do with the interests and concerns of real, non-PhD-holding people, is quite good. At the very least, it’s a nice antidote to Simon Critchley’s embarrassing nonsense. And a couple parts in each column nearly had me pumping my fist in the air. To whit, here’s a great excerpt from AskPhilosophers.org founder Alexander George’s entry:
It certainly doesn’t help that philosophy is rarely taught or read in schools. Despite the fact that children have an intense interest in philosophical issues, and that a training in philosophy sharpens one’s analytical abilities, with few exceptions our schools are de-philosophized zones. This has as a knock-on effect that students entering college shy away from philosophy courses. Bookstores — those that remain — boast philosophy sections cluttered with self-help guides. It is no wonder that the educated public shows no interest in, or perhaps even finds alien, the fully ripened fruits of philosophy.
And here’s Frieda Klotz:
Plutarch thought philosophy should be taught at dinner parties. It should be taught through literature, or written in letters giving advice to friends. Good philosophy does not occur in isolation; it is about friendship, inherently social and shared. The philosopher should engage in politics, and he should be busy, for he knows, as Plutarch sternly puts it, that idleness is no remedy for distress.
The point that philosophers should be involved in politics is, I think, a particularly good one; if you believe that the study of ethics and political philosophy has any merit at all, then surely you believe that the people who devote their lives to studying it have something to contribute to, and gain from, the political sphere.