Public Philosophy Call for Proposals

The Public Philosophy Network invites proposals by September 15 for its fourth conference on Advancing Public Philosophy, Boulder, Colorado, February 8 to 10, 2018. Originally scheduled to take place in Denton, Texas, the organizers changed the venue due to the  recent passage of a discriminatory Texas law that prompted California to issue a ban against state-funded travel to Texas.

The conference theme is understanding impact: What practices improve the uptake of philosophy, both across the disciplines, and throughout society? This question will be pursued through workshops and papers, topical investigations (e.g., climate change) and case studies, and engagement with philosophers, STEM researchers, administrators, policy professionals, and journalists. Conference website:

We invite proposals on a wide range of topics related to understanding and advancing public philosophy, including the following:

  • Questions of how to define, evaluate, and measure the impact of public philosophy;
  • Philosophical work on substantive policy issues (e.g., environment, LGBTQ, health, housing, economics, and many more);
  • Accounts of philosophical work with other disciplines (e.g., STEM), as well as engagement with various non-academic publics – and of the impacts of such work;
  • Best practices in public philosophy;
  • Reflection on pathways to greater impact: How can philosophers increase the impact of their work? And the skills needed to engage in public philosophy;
  • Questions surrounding the responsibilities and loyalties of the public philosopher;
  • Responses to the accountability or audit culture and neoliberal trends in the academy;
  • The institutional dimensions of public philosophy (for example, tenure, funding, pedagogy, the structure of academic units and programs, etc.);
  • Reflections on how philosophy itself is transformed by turning outward: How does public engagement inform philosophical concepts and understanding of audience, credibility, expertise, standards of rigor or excellence; and
  • Accounts of the relation between public and normal (‘disciplinary’) philosophy.

Toward the goal of making our meeting more participatory and interdisciplinary in nature, plenaries and sessions will include (in addition to PPN’s traditional approaches):

  • Presentations by scientists, engineers, and policy-makers on how philosophers can better help with the philosophical aspects of their work;
  • A discussion with university administrators on the changing place of philosophy within the university, and the increase of support for public philosophy; and
  • A plenary on the challenges of doing philosophy in the public sphere.

Submissions: send an abstract with “PPN Submission” in the subject line by September 15, 2017 to Abstracts should be limited to 300 words. Please also specify in your abstract whether you are submitting a proposal for a workshop or an individual paper.

Details on these two formats are as follows:

Workshops (2 hour sessions). Proposals should include a workshop title and descriptions of the organizer(s)’ interests and experience with the subject matter and how the topic is of concern to philosophy or public life. Proposals should also include an overview of how the workshop will proceed, highlighting how it will be participatory and experiential, and indicating any non-academic participants you might invite. We anticipate that workshops will take different formats, depending on the issues being addressed and the number and type of participants.

The goals of these sessions can include 1) to foster partnerships and projects, whether new or ongoing, and, where appropriate, to spark substantive dialogue between philosophers and “practitioners” (public policy makers, government officials, grassroots activists, nonprofit leaders, etc.) or 2) to focus on how to do certain kinds of work in public philosophy. A second call will be issued later in the year inviting people to apply to participate in the workshops. Workshop organizers should help publicize this second call. Each workshop will be limited to ~20 participants.  Workshop participants chosen after the second call will be listed on the program as discussants, though they will not be expected to make any formal presentation.

Papers (to be grouped into 90 minute sessions). We are especially interested in papers that report on public philosophy projects or reflect on the practice of public philosophy. Proposals should include the title and a brief description of the paper. Presenters should plan for brief presentations followed by longer conversations.


Conference Website: More details are on the website at

2018 Public Philosophy Network Conference

The Public Philosophy Network is pleased to announce that the Public Philosophy Network’s next conference on Advancing Public Philosophy will take place February 8-10, 2018, at the University of North Texas.  UNT is located in Denton, Texas, less than 30 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Details and a call for participants will be coming soon — but for now please save the date. Please send any questions to conference hosts, Adam Briggle at or Robert Frodeman at

Public Philosophy, on tap not on top

Over at Daily Nous a conversation is ongoing about public philosophy — who is doing it and what the public might want from it. This seems a good time to link to a document that Sharon Meagher wrote for the Kettering Foundation a few years ago, especially to make the point that the public-philosopher relationship should be something much better than a masses-expert relationship. Community organizers have a nice model, summed up in the slogan that experts should be on tap, not on top. So what drives the relationship would be whatever it is that is of concern to the public in its effort to ameliorate problems. (Okay, that’s my inner Dewey channelling.)

Here’s an excerpt from Meagher’s executive summary:

Philosophy has followed most other academic disciplines in seeking to make both its public voice and public value clearer and more explicit. Arguably philosophy has greater resources to draw on, given the deep civic roots of the discipline. In recent years, the American Philosophical Association formed a committee on public philosophy, following most other U.S. professional disciplinary associations in forming a committee intended to support and develop the public dimensions of the respective discipline. More recently, a group of philosophers founded the Public Philosophy Network (PPN), an association dedicated to the promotion of publicly engaged philosophical research, social action projects, and teaching….

As part of our role in fostering discussion and reflection on public philosophy, we focus on the following three questions:

  • How has the discipline of philosophy experienced a disconnection from public life and narrowing of its public role? How does public philosophy fit into the larger emergence of public forms of scholarship across disciplines?
  • What are the core characteristics of public philosophy? How does public philosophy differ from applied philosophy, scholar-activism, and other more familiar approaches?
  • What does publicly engaged philosophy have to contribute to addressing the public dimensions of complex public issues?

[Meagher proposes] five theses intended to provoke further reflection and discussion….

Thesis 1: Public philosophy should be transformative

Thesis 2: Public Philosophers should not be understood as “experts”

Thesis 3: Public Philosophy demands collaborative and interdisciplinary work

Thesis 4: Public Philosophers must be committed to assessing their work and being accountable to their public partners

Thesis 5: Public philosophy demands that we work to make philosophy more inclusive and representative of various publics

The full report is here.

I think the hardest part of this for many philosophers, along with other academics, to get are theses one and two, namely that engaging the public may call on us to change how we do our work and that the relationship should be mutual, not hierarchical.

However slowly, this is beginning to change, especially as more philosophers enter unfamiliar territory, from teaching in prisons to working with NGOs on issues of climate, poverty, race, and gender.

Public Philosophy Network comes to Emory

Hey there friends, I’m organizing this conference and there’s still time to get on the program:

Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy, March 14-16, 2013, Emory University Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia, Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Minnich

Early Registration extended to February 8, 2013. Those who register early pay a lower fee and will be listed on the program as discussants for any workshop they get in. Workshops are filling up quickly. TO REGISTER GO HERE:  

The Public Philosophy Network (PPN) brings together theorists and practitioners engaged in public life. Rather than merely try to apply theoretical insights to practical problems, PPN seeks to create spaces for mutual reflections on the meanings of public problems and the practice of philosophy itself.  PPN engages theorists and practitioners online and offline, online through its interactive web space and offline through its national conferences that occur every 18 months.

A key feature of the conferences is the participatory workshops on a range of issues related to publicly engaged philosophy.  Additionally there are plenaries, paper sessions, and organized sessions, though all aim to be participatory models of public engagement.  Workshop topics for the upcoming conference are listed below; for full descriptions and the full conference program, go to:

The 2013 conference is sponsored by Emory University and co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, George Mason University, Penn State University’s Rock Ethics Institute and Michigan State University.

After registering for the conference, you will be prompted to sign up for workshops, listed below.



•           Taking Philosophy into the Field of Science and Technology Policy: Toward a Paradigm for Publically Engaged Philosophy, facilitators:  Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, and Kelli Barr, U. North Texas.

•           Philosophy Behind Prison Walls, Pedagogy, Praxis, and Infrastructure, facilitators:  Brady Heiner, California State University, Fullerton; John D. Macready, University of Dallas; Marianne Patinelli-Dubay , SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

•           Creating Public-Public Partnerships: Utilizing Universities for Participatory Budgeting, facilitators:  Michael Menser and Kwabena Edusei, Brooklyn College

•           Streets, Surfaces, and Sounds, facilitator:  Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Univeristy of Washington Bothell

•           Race, the City, and the Challenge of Praxis, facilitators:  Ron Sundstrom, University of San Francisco; Frank McMillan, Organizer, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith CommunityEngagement)

•           Performing Philosophy:  Participatory Theater as a Means of Engaging Communities Philosophically, facilitators:  Sharon M. Meagher and Hank Willenbrink, University of Scranton

•           Using Non-Cooperative, Experiential Games to Teach Sustainability Ethics, facilitator:  Jathan Sadowski, Arizona State University

•           Scientific Advisory Committees, Controversial Issues and the Role of Philosophy, facilitators:  Paul Thompson, Michigan State University; Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech University; Mr. Gene Gregory, former President and CEO of the United Egg Producers; Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University


•           Philosophy of/as Interdisciplinarity Network (PIN) or Philosophy and Interdisciplinarity: Reflecting on and Crossing Boundaries, facilitators:  Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas; Jan Schmidt, Darmstadt University; Michael Hoffmann, Georgia Tech

•           Challenging the Culture of Sexual Violence: Moral Literacy and Sexual Empowerment as Tools of Transformation, faciliators:  Sarah Clark Miller and Cori Wong, Penn State University; Ann Cahill, Elon College.

•           Engaged Philosophy and Just University-Community Partnerships, facilitators:  Dr. Ericka Tucker, Cal Poly Pomona University and Emory University; Dr. Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Letitia Campbell, Emory UniversitY; Hussien Mohamed, Director of Sagal Radio, OUCP.

•           Hip-Hop as Public Philosophy, faciliatators:  Roberto Domingo, Stony Brook University; Jo Dalton, French rap-producer, activist, and former gang leader ; Amer Ahmed, Chair of the National Hip-Hop Congress;  Michael Benitez  Jr., Director of Intercultural Engagement and  Leadership, Grinnell College

•          Sagacity and Commerce, facilitator:  David E. McClean, Rutgers University, Molloy College

•           Practical Epistemology and Sustainable Inquiry, facilitators:  Karen Hanson and Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota

•           Public Philosophy Journal: Performing Philosophy as Publication, facilitators:  Christopher Long and Mark Fisher, Penn State University.

•           Equity and Climate Change: Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Advocacy, faciliators:  Andrew Light, George Mason University and Center for American Progress; and Paul Baer, Georgia Tech