A growing subset of the discipline is seeking to take a more public stance. These publicly inclined philosophers see a need for government to factor moral and ethical priorities into policy considerations, which they say are too often dominated by economists with their emphasis on quantification.
And, in an age of increasing ideological rigidity, these philosophers argue that their training gives them a unique ability to identify the unexamined assumptions and value systems that can harden political factions. Such a skill is valuable, they say, because problems like climate change are growing more complex at the same time that the public’s ability to think through the implications of possible solutions is diminishing.
“Philosophy could do some good, even a hell of a lot of good,” says John Lachs, a professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, who has spent years exhorting those in his discipline to become more publicly engaged.
And here’s Martha Nussbaum on the lack of interest in philosophers’ input in the US:
Ms. Nussbaum says governments outside the United States have invited her to travel widely to share her ideas on those and other issues. But she and other philosophers have not had the same experience in America, perhaps because their politics are too far to the left, they say.
“If we are not in Washington, that is because a conscious decision has been made not to invite us there,” say Ms. Nussbaum, noting that President Obama has not reached out to her even though he has known her for years. “The problem is with anti-intellectualism and the general nature of media and politics in the U.S., not with philosophers.”