Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Practical philosophy

An email announcing the founding of a new philosophy radio show and institute associated with the University of North Dakota (details here) makes the following claim:

We at IPPL are committed to the belief that all philosophical research is relevant to day to day life (even the most obscure stuff) and that what is needed is a “translation” of the technical or jargon-filled work. General audiences will respond to what we do, we just have to get their attention.

No doubt there are certain bits and pieces of philosophy that might be of some use or interest to the man on the Clapham omnibus, but this strikes me as an outrageous exaggeration. You?

8 comments:

chrono said...

I'm not convinced, though it would be nice if it were true. It would be interesting to post philosophical research that we think isn't relevant to everyday life, and perhaps someone else on here has a way to make it relevant.

I'll start. Mereological nihilism vs mereological universalism.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most philosophical work, if suitably translated, could be relevant to everday life. (Though of course it depends on what we mean by "relevant.") Also, if you can't make your research sound interesting to an educated non-philosopher, good luck at your campus visits (much less at your family reunion!). And by the way, ominous moderator, you sound like an ass for disparaging the sort of project that there should be more of, and which could create many new jobs in our discipline.

Anonymous said...

P.S. People like Achille Varzi and Barry Smith have done work in applied mereology. You could do some research before you so smugly assert an area's irrelevance.

p-zombie said...

"We at IPPL are committed to the belief that all philosophical research is relevant to day to day life (even the most obscure stuff) and that what is needed is a “translation” of the technical or jargon-filled work. General audiences will respond to what we do, we just have to get their attention."

It would be more accurate, IMO, to say that all philosophical research could be INTERESTING to general audiences, given appropriate translation. Isn't that the mission of those of us who teach intro philosophy to undergrads? To show them that it is interesting and (often) relevant? There is relevance to other academic disciplines, surely, but I don't think it is all relevant to the "man on the street," and certainly not equally relevant.

chrono said...

Apparently Anon 6:31 thinks that `wishing p were true' is equivalent to `smugly asserting that p is false.' I wish that were true.

Can you point me toward some reactions to Varzi and Smith by non-philosophers so that I might be enlightened?

Anonymous said...

Isn't relevance always going to be determined by the non-instrumental goals that we have? It seems to me that we're making assumptions here about the non-instrumental goals most people may have when we say that most philosophical research isn't "relevant" to "everyday life" and what not. P-zombie, I think, may be getting at a related point.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, ominous moderator, you sound like an ass for disparaging the sort of project that there should be more of, and which could create many new jobs in our discipline.

What? I know OM personally and I know that OM wasn't disparaging any projects. And, looking over this post again, even if I didn't know OM personally I would know that this was completely out of line. OM was (mildly) critical of something that you also seem to deny. This isn't supposed to be a blog for unprovoked aggression.

Anonymous said...

chrono: I suggest you look at the work Smith has done with biological ontology, as well as the grant money he has secured for this project from numerous medical sources.