Archive for September 9th, 2010


Philosophy and Policy

September 9, 2010

Roger has a nice post this morning about the conflict and pushback he’s gotten from political scientists by working on policy issues. The same could be said for those working in philosophy and policy.

Curiously, many philosophers will insist that they’re interested in public policy issues. They will tell you that they focus on abstract philosophical questions associated with broad-reaching public policy concerns: moral status, personal identity, doing and allowing, the nature of value. These are all  interesting questions, of course, and I work on some of them too. When push comes to shove, however, many philosophers often refuse to go further. They’ll insist that many of the more pressing public policy issues aren’t philosophically interesting enough, that there’s no sense in dissecting the details. Doing so will certainly come off as scholastic and picayune.

Meh. Policy is messy, gritty stuff. The targets are moving. The questions are changing. Philosophers need to step up and get a little dirty. It ain’t as pure as all the beautiful as the M&E or metaethics stuff; it’s not as fun as the normative or even the applied ethics work; but it’s just as damned important.

Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretirt; es kommt aber darauf an, sie zu verändern. Or something like that.