What is Popular Philosophy?

Jonny Thakkar in The Point:

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 20 10.50 Popular science is part of popular culture: our shelves teem with tomes that flatter and patronize us in equal measure, and every fallen senator is the victim of his genes. But what about popular philosophy? Is there a philosophical version of Steven Pinker? Various names spring to mind—Simon Blackburn, A.C. Grayling and Alain de Botton among them1—but despite impressive sales it seems fair to say that none has achieved the cultural significance of a Richard Dawkins or Steven Levitt. Moreover, their work has done little to appease critics who charge that in a time of “culture wars” philosophers have abandoned their posts, retreating to the crusty comforts of academic armchairs rather than facing up to the avarice and fundamentalism around them. Contemporary philosophy, these critics allege, has next to nothing to say about the nature of the contemporary world. The makers of Examined Life, a 2008 documentary, concur; they claim their film “pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets.” This suggests that philosophy is supposed to be popular, but has somehow ended up the exclusive province of eggheads and boffins. But how can such an intricate, elusive, arduous discipline ever be popular?

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