Public philosophy seems to be quite fashionable lately. In this mise en abyme or meta-Olio, we will discuss together the challenges that such an activity faces.
When the instructor host symposia open to the public like this one, she knows that most people who attend already have some level of academic education and intellectual curiosity for philosophical questioning… How about the diversity of the audiences?
Even if indeed there might be an increase of interest for philosophy among the general public, the question of the actual relevance of public philosophy remains. On the one hand, the skills required for popularizing philosophical ideas are difficult to master. On the other hand, the expectations of the public might be misled by prejudices about supposed therapeutic, or problem-solving virtues too hastily attributed to the philosophical activity.
And what about audiences who do not spontaneously seek this activity? On Rikers Island, the public, far from referring to a homogeneous general audience of relatively educated people, includes persons who rarely have the chance to engage in abstract reasoning due to living conditions, complex vulnerabilities, hierarchies, threats, and distrust – issues that most inmates have to face constantly. What type of public philosophy are we then speaking about? How can a philosopher shape her pedagogy – her andragogy (art and science of helping adults learn) – in order to convey a content that is often counterintuitive, and sometimes very obscure, without falling into oversimplification nor condescendence?
This event is meant as an exchange or a workshop way more than as a lecture. After all, this Olio is about you as an audience, receiving, but also leading the discussion. Your feedback, questions, suggestions, criticism, are strongly encouraged – and will be taken into account in the way we will shape our new philosophy club seminar!
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