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Philosophy & society

Does philosophy matter for real life and society?  Isn’t it all about abstract ideas?  Actually, philosophy is all about real issues!  Philosophy aims to provide you with the big picture.  It allows you to connect and evaluate the many details that you get from the news and from other sciences.  Philosophers discuss topics from gene drives to gender.

Philosophers Connect and Evaluate

Philosophers think systematically and critically about fundamental topics like propaganda, democracy, social hierarchies, global justice or religious conflict.  They ask what these things are, how they hang together, and how we should react to them.  Philosophy thus makes an important contribution to our understanding of society.  Philosophers also work on timely issues, such as Syrian refugees, the 2008 financial crisis, the ethics of NGOs, digital piracy, big data, or Brexit.  And they make concrete policy proposals—e.g. on how to motivate pharma companies to do more for global health.

At Concordia’s Philosophy Department, Professor Gilabert, e.g., has written a book on global poverty and global justice, Professor Fritsch is working on climate change and intergenerational justice, Professor Angelova specializes in feminism, and Professor Nieswandt advocates a novel theory of rights and has contributed to the debate about unconditional basic income in the digital age.

Philosophers Change Society

Philosophy does not only help us understand things.  Philosophers are also active in politics.  The Montreal-based philosopher Charles Taylor, for example, has shaped the Canadian debates about democracy and multiculturalism, and he served on Quebec’s Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences.  Similar things are true of moral philosophers like Martha Nussbaum, who has testified as an expert in trials, or political philosophers like Kwame Appiah, who was voted one of the world’s most influential thinkers, along with philosophers like Jürgen Habermas.

Philosophy Empowers You

Philosophy is “one of the most powerful tools” to empower people “into acting as free and responsible subjects in an ever more complex, interconnected, and uncertain world,” as Irish president Michael Higgins recently pointed out.  Philosophy teaches you how to distinguish contributions to debates that ought to be taken seriously from illusory rhetoric or bullshit.  In a world of fake news, in which the guiding role of truth in public discourse is under threat, philosophical skills allow you to make good political choices and good life choices.

Philosophy helps to counteract a technocratic approach to policy making.  It teaches you what Google can’t do.  It makes rational suggestions for how the world can become better.  That is why the UNESCO recently instituted a World Philosophy Day.

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