Philosophy is for everyone

As Karl Jaspers maintained in a series of television talks in the early 60’s, philosophy is for every person. We are not all engineers or computer programmers, but we all are called on to philosophize. But this doesn’t mean that everyone is equally skilled at such thinking. There may be no ‘right’ answer to philosophical questions as there is with arithmetic, but there are more or less thoughtful ones. “Thinking out” such questions, as Peter Singer (1972) remarks, “is a difficult task.” Academically trained philosophers have a leg up even when they are not the most naturally gifted thinkers: they are trained in making arguments, they are familiar with philosophical concepts and the history of ideas, and they have the time to collect evidence and do the careful thinking. Most people have other duties that call them out from this reflective space.

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