Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Welcome to Occupy Philosophy

I’ve started this website as a way for professional philosophers (people working as either faculty or graduate students in academic philosophy departments) to express their solidarity with and/or concerns about the ongoing Occupy Wall Street Movement. The 99% includes philosophers and philosophy graduate students as well. Hopefully as a community, philosophers can help to generate interest in and refine and expand upon the views of this rapidly emerging movement in global politics. My vision is for this to become a place where the movement can find useful criticism as well as intellectual support as it seeks to define its own goals. If you'd like to be involved, particularly as a joint administrator or author, please email me.


  1. Thank you for setting up this blog. In addition to the goals you outline above, I am worried about (and would be eager to discuss with the readers and authors of this blog) the extent to which those of us who are populating the world with philosophy majors can do better by those students. Can we do a better job of helping our philosophy graduates translate their undergraduate education into jobs? I can't help but feel *some* responsibility for unemployed philosophy majors, inasmuch as I don't do very much at all to help them launch careers after they graduate. I don't want to send waves of my students to graduate school or law school, but there is little we do as a profession to help prepare our students for meaningful work outside of the academy. Obviously (a) there are bigger fish to fry, and (b) there are other people and institutions who bear more responsibility for the injustice that the movement is fighting against than philosophy professors and their departments, but I can't help but feel somewhat guilty when I hear tale after tale of people who graduate from good schools with lots of debt and no job. I know these people aren't all humanities majors, but I worry that one reaction to tales of unemployed, debt-burdened college graduates will be, once again, to beat up on the "useless" majors, and to encourage people to get more "practical" degrees. I believe that philosophy is a fantastically useful degree--both because of the way in enables one to offer clearly thought out critiques of injustice, but also because of the ways in prepares one for meaningful work, and I'm sure many of the people here would agree with me. I like to recruit students to be philosophy majors, but I want to be able to tell them that pursuing such a degree will allow them to repay their student loans.

    I can't end unregulated corporate capitalism, but maybe I can prepare my students to enter the workforce better able to use their philosophy degrees for good--both their own good, and the good of the society around them.

    I apologize for rambling, but hope that my concern has been made clear for all that. I would love to hear others views on this (admittedly poorly articulated) issue.

  2. First of all thank you for taking the initiative of setting up this blog. One can wonder what philosophers can do to participate in this general movement and I believe the first step to be the philosophical discussion.

    The movement is slowly but surely spreading across North America, in fact, as I write these words I just learned that my fellow philosophers at Université Laval (Québec city) are participating to an « Occuppons Québec » event on saturday. They intend to carry the message that has started in New York, and to use the venue to discuss furthermore with the organizers of the event to enrich the movement. Lots of people from different points of views do gather in such events and the role of the philosophers is nowhere as usefull. Help folks to discuss, propose solutions, critisize, evaluate, but as good old Marx said, philosophy doesn't end at looking at the world, philosophers can help to change it.
    Louis-Etienne Pigeon

  3. @Andrew...I think your inclination to want to discuss what we can do as a profession to help our students find meaningful and rewarding career paths is terrific one. Of course things will not change for the better until our society frees itself from the shackles of the plutocracy and finally awakens to the value of Liberal Arts education in general. But that said, We @ Occupy philosophy welcome and encourage the discussion re: how we as educators and public intellectuals can take a leading role in helping our students secure a brighter future for themselves. Email me and let me know if you'd like to join us as an author and perhaps you can get that conversation in going in a series of posts to the blog.

    @Greme...I agree that philosophers are needed in the movement NOW, and that we as public intellectuals have a moral duty to help the movement advance in way that will benefit all of mankind (and yes even being critical of the movement and voicing dissenting/conservative views fulfills this moral duty...the only sin is remaining silent).

    Also, I cannot stress this enough, get busy LOCALLY philosophers. In every major city in North America the Occupation is hosting General Assemblies. Search them out and get involved Locally! I've spent a few hours with my local branch and it was a spiritually and intellectually rewarding experience, and they were glad to a philosopher on hand. You'll be glad you went to check things out and you'll be connected to to something great!

  4. I would find it interesting to see a philosopher's perspective on how Derrida would have responded to the 'Occupy' phenomenon given his grouping of activism he called the 'New International' in Specters of Marx.

    (I had speculated too on how Adam Smith would have responded if he had somehow been teleported in time to the current event. I don't think it would be what the conventional thought would be.)

  5. I am not a "professional philosopher". In undergrad, I studied mathematics along with philosophy. As someone who is concerned with the pursuit and exchange of theory and inquiry, I found this blog to be intriguing. And it certainly has been thus far. I just find it curious that the conversations being broached in this forum are limited to the "professional philosophers". I would like to believe that a philosophical framework would be read and analyzed on its merits and not on the fact that it was written by a very small and elite group of thinkers. Given that this blog has been adopted with the ows 99% philosophy of bridging gaps, I think it is important that we steer away from a banking theory of philosophizing, were it is a small group of "philosopher" who deposit or bequeath knowledge to the incapable masses. The title of philosopher, I believe, should be given to those who think critically about real and theoretical problems, irrespective of your profession. And I'm incline to believe most of share this sentiment. So I guess I'm saying that drawing a sharp distinction between the professional and the non-professional philosopher creates an atmosphere of exclusivity, and this may present a psychological impediment for those who consider themselves amateurs of inquiry.

    Philosophy has been a transformational part of my life. I think we can agree that it can and should be for so many more people. And if we, as philosophers, believe that one of our goals is to draw more people towards critical thought, then we must find ways to broaden theoretical dialogue and not curtail it.

    Saying that, I support the idea of this blog and I'm looking forward to further discussions.