SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Popularizing Philosophy
(Affiliated Workshop, English, German)

The history of philosophy is abundant with attempts to popularize philosophical thinking. In order to make philosophy accessible to a wider audience without a formal training various authors have tried to translate opaque philosophical terminology into ordinary language, illustrate philosophical ideas with didactic poems and plays, written novels with a philosophical narrative, and engaged in public discussions about pressing moral problems. Attempts to popularize philosophy were often met with apprehension by academic scholars worrying that complex philosophical ideas would be misconstrued by breaking them down for a lay audience. But isn't successful popularization of philosophy a sign of a healthy discourse between the ivory-tower of the philosopher and the market place of philosophical laypersons?
Bringing together perspectives from philosophy of science, existentialism, meta-ethics and the history of philosophy, this workshop will investigate the merits and problems of popularizing philosophy.


Schedule.

16:00--16:05 Introduction
16:05--16:50 Sascha Aulich: Popularisierungsversuche in der Philosophiegeschichte
16:50--17:35 Oliver Victor: Existenzialismus und Popularisierung. Die Rolle der Philosophie bei Albert Camus
17:45--18:30 Frauke Albersmeier: Philosophers as moral experts?
18:30--19:15 Alexander Christian: Popular Culture and Philosophy: Possibilities and Limitations


Abstracts.

Sascha Aulich (Düsseldorf): Popularisierungsversuche in der Philosophiegeschichte
Nicht erst seit Kant beschäftigen sich die Menschen mit (den) vier großen Fragen: Was kann ich wissen? Was soll ich tun? Was darf ich hoffen? Was ist der Mensch? Die zahlreichen antiken philosophischen Schulen bietet mit ihren jeweils eigenen Ausgangsprämissen ein breites Spektrum an Antwortversuchen. Und auch ihre Strategien eine Außenwirkung zu erzielen, weichen teilweise deutlich voneinander ab.
So bietet Platon mit seinen vordergründig für den Leser voraussetzungsfreien Dialogen Gelegenheit, sich über philosophische Fragen und Probleme Gedanken zu machen. Etwas anders verhält es sich mit seinem Schüler Aristoteles. Seine Dialoge sind leider restlos verloren. Und mit seinen verbliebenen -- d.h. den verschollenen und dann wiedergefundenen -- Lehrschriften und Manuskripten konnte er nicht die dramatische Faszination Platons erreichen. Stattdessen bestechen diese Werke vor allem durch argumentative Prägnanz und einem Sinn für die Wichtigkeit begrifflicher Klarheit. Obgleich sie in ihrer philosophiegeschichtlichen Durchschlagskraft einmalig sind, gelten sie als schwer verständlich und bleiben eher dem geduldigen Fachpublikum vorbehalten. Der Vortrag wird beispielhaft anhand der antiken Literatur die Popularisierungsversuche und -chancen in den Blick nehmen und insbesondere auf die Abgrenzungsproblematik zur Sophistik eingehen.

Oliver Victor (Düsseldorf): Existenzialismus und Popularisierung. Die Rolle der Philosophie bei Albert Camus
Die Philosophie Albert Camus' wird gemeinhin, trotz widersprüchlicher Aussagen seiner selbst und abweichender Interpretationen, der Wirkungsgeschichte Kierkegaards und somit der Existenzphilosophie bzw. dem Existenzialismus zugeordnet. Der Existenzialismus zählt zu denjenigen philosophischen Strömungen, die einen spürbaren Einfluss auf das breite kulturelle Umfeld ihrer Epoche ausübten. Gerade im Kreise der französischen Existenzialisten (Camus, de Beauvoir, Sartre etc.) wurde er zu einer Art Modeerscheinung und Lebensgefühl einer ganzen Generation, was ihn als prädestinierten Ausgangspunkt einer Debatte um Pros und Contras der Popularisierung von Philosophie erscheinen lässt. Die Philosophie Camus' bietet hierfür mit ihrer Kritik an der akademischen Philosophie im Allgemeinen und ihrer Aversion gegen die Systemphilosophie des Deutschen Idealismus im Besonderen einen reichhaltigen Fundus. Allein mittels der Form seiner Texte -- Camus verfasste Romane, Dramen, Zeitungsartikel und philosophische sowie literarische Essays -- erweitert er das Spektrum seines Adressatenkreises. Seine um die conditio humana kreisenden Reflexionen richten sich dezidiert nicht an eine kleine esoterische Gruppe von Fachgenossen, sondern an ein breites Publikum.
Der Vortrag möchte aufzeigen, wie sich aus einem bestimmten Philosophieverständnis, nämlich das der existenzialistischen ''Philosophie als Lebensform'', eine gewisse Notwendigkeit von Popularisierung ergibt, um den eignen Anforderungen Rechnung zu tragen. Dies geschieht nicht zuletzt unter Rekurs auf das Verhältnis von Philosophie und Literatur in Camus' Œuvre.

Frauke Albersmeier (Düsseldorf): Philosophers as moral experts?
Public interest in philosophy focuses on the issues dealt with in practical philosophy much more than on those addressed in theoretical philosophy. Philosophers might have been superseded by physicists and other natural scientists as experts on the nature of the outside world, and more recently by psychologists and cognitive scientists as experts on the human mind -- but when it comes to questions of what to do, of right and wrong, obligation and moral excellence, they are still recognized as likely candidates for fulfilling an expert's role. However, it is not always clear what they are expected to deliver and what they take themselves to be providing: expertise in moral philosophy or the insights of a moral authority. If the moral expertise that is requested from the philosopher is expertise in moral philosophy -- i.e., if her task is to popularize moral philosophy -- is there a requirement that she do so as comprehensively as possible, i.e. should she always go beyond popularizing her own take on the philosophical problem at hand and provide information on the larger theoretical landscape and all kinds of divergent positions? Some moral philosophers themselves suggest that publicly promoting their personal position would exceed their philosophical expertise, while others readily assess the latest moral topics.
In this talk I will discuss examples of public performances by practical philosophers addressing the moral claims of nonhuman animals and argue that the reluctance to take a (reasoned) stand is more likely to constitute a failing in presenting moral philosophy to the general public than the choice to focus attention on one's own philosophical position.

Alexander Christian (Düsseldorf): Popular Culture and Philosophy: Possibilities and Limitations
Attempts to popularize philosophical thinking are present throughout the history of western philosophy. Plato wrote fictitious philosophical dialogues while his contemporaries authored didactic poems. Roman philosophers translated greek philosophical terminology into latin terms. Marcus Aurelius and Augustine of Hippe wrote philosophical autobiographies meant to be read as a philosophical prose for a wider audience---in dire need of a source of personal guidance and self-improvement. Nicholas of Cusa even invented a game to illustrate philosophical and theological ideas important to him (De ludo globi, 1463). In modern times, Niccolò Machiavelli devoted Il Principe (1513) to the Duke of Urbino Lorenzo de' Medici, Encyclopédistes like Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert intended to advance science and also spread the ideals of enlightenment among the folk. In contemporary philosophy, the popularization of philosophical thought is not uncommon either: Jean-Paul Sartre wrote several existentialist plays, philosopher of science Karl Popper participated in public debate after the second world war with his The Open Society and Its Enemies and one of the last so-called Volksbücher of philosophy was written by Theodor W. Adorno (Minima Moralia, 1951). Peter Singer influenced the debate about the moral consideration of nonhuman animals outside of academia with his Animal Liberation (1975). These philosophers tried to make philosophical thinking -- its theories, concepts, terms, and arguments -- accessible to a broader readership and a common implicit assumption was that philosophical thought should take precedence over the mode of depiction. That is, philosophical ideas should be popularized, yet not trivialized.
Since the early 2000s, a new way of popularizing philosophical thinking has emerged. Philosophers like William Irwin (The Blackwell Philosophy and Culture Series) and Georg Reisch (Open Court Popular Culture and Philosophy Series) began to edit volumes on seemingly disparate cultural domains, that is popular culture on the one hand and academic philosophy on the other hand. Bridging the gap between these two realms, philosophers illustrate and explain philosophical ideas with the help of popular TV series, movies, song lyrics and video games. Today you can find books entitled The Simpsons and Philosophy or Star Trek and Philosophy in most well-sorted book stores. Addressing laypersons with no formal training in philosophy, these books attract a readership interested in philosophical investigations into their favorite format of pop-cultural entertainment. While readers obviously have enjoyed such volumes, some academic philosophers have attacked the format. Lamenting pseudo-intellectual fandom, a lack of argumentative, conceptual and terminological precision, and an overall lack of cultural criticism, the critics' verdict was clear: Popular culture and philosophy is just pseudoscientific dumbed-down philosophy. But according to William Irwing, ''philosophy needs to be popularised, as science needs to be popularised, and philosophy professors should be involved in the popularisation of philosophy, rather than leaving the task to well-meaning amateurs'' (Irwing 2010, p. 48). In this talk, I will first depict various attempts to popularize philosophical thinking in the history of western philosophy and outline intellectual aspirations associated with popularized philosophy. Then I will provide a brief overview on some outstanding, original and thought-provoking philosophical contributions to popular culture and philosophy (Christian 2017a, 2017b, 2018; Christian & Albersmeier 2018) and identify some common characteristics of works in this field. Finally, I discuss possibilities and limitations of this new literary genre in philosophy. I will argue that its value does not consist in spreading philosophical wisdom but in evoking philosophical wonder.

References:
-- Adorno, T. W. (2016). Minima Moralia (10 ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
-- Irwin, W. (2010). Fancy taking a pop? In The Philosophers' Magazine, (49), 48?54.
-- Christian, A. (2018). Dilbert's Absurd World. In D. Yim, G. Foresman, & R. Arp, eds. Scott Adams and Philosophy. Chicago: Open Court.
-- Christian, A. (2017a). Is Ellen Ripley a Feminist? In Ewing, J. A., & Decker, K. S. (2017). Alien and Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.
-- Christian, A. (2017b). Spies Finding the Good Life. In Arp, R., & Guilfoy, K. (2017). The Americans and Philosophy. Open Court Publishing.
-- forthcoming: Christian, A. & Albersmeier, F. (2018): Is there any utopia in Zootopia? In Richard David (2018): Disney and Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.
-- Singer, P. (1975). Animal Liberation. Harper Collins.


Organisation: Alexander Christian & Frauke Albersmeier (Düsseldorf)


Chair: Frauke Albersmeier
Time: 16:00-20:00, 13 September 2018 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.003

Frauke Albersmeier 
(HHU Düsseldorf, Germany)

Frauke Albersmeier MA is a research fellow at Heinrich Heine University, Duesseldorf, working in project A05: ''Presuppositions of frame theory in the history of philosophy'' of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre 991: ''The Structure of Representations in Language, Cognition, and Science''. Her research focus is on philosophical methodology as well as animal ethics. She is currently writing her dissertation on ''The Concept of Moral Progress''.

Sascha Aulich 
(HHU Düsseldorf, Germany)

Sascha Aulich ist seit Oktober 2013 wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Philosophie der HHU Düsseldorf und arbeitet für Prof. Christoph Kann in dem Forschungsprojekt zu ''Paradoxien im 13. Jahrhundert''. Zurzeit verfasst er seine Dissertation mit dem Titel ''Facetten des Glücks. Eine terminologische Untersuchung zu Aristoteles''.

Alexander Christian 
(HHU Düsseldorf, Germany)

Alexander Christian MA is the assistant director of the Düsseldorf Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science and a research fellow at the Chair of Theoretical Philosophy at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. He is working in general philosophy of science and research ethics, with a particular focus on scientific misconduct, questionable research practices, and bias in medical research. He has published about the suppression of medical evidence, the demarcation problem, and values in science, and has also written about veganism, human animal studies and popular culture and philosophy.

Oliver Victor 
(HHU Düsseldorf, Germany)

Oliver Victor, M.A. ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Philosophie der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. 2013 absolvierte er seinen Bachelor in den Fächern Philosophie und Geschichtswissenschaften sowie 2016 den Master im Fach Philosophie. Zurzeit arbeitet er an seinem Dissertationsprojekt zu dem Thema: ''Existenzphilosophie. Genese, Positionen und Perspektiven''.

Testability and Meaning deco