Saving Sophia: Why Philosophy Needs A Revolution John Altmann Academia, Arts & Culture, Philosophy I have been an independent scholar in Philosophy for around 6-7 years. Coming from a poorer background and being disabled, I found the prospect of attaining a formal education in philosophy within the hollowed halls of academia to be rather daunting. There have been a few times when I have wondered if I was missing out, or if I was going to hit the ceiling of my potential in philosophy sooner as an independent scholar than I would if I took the time and the significant capital to commit to a PhD program. But on the whole, I quite love working outside of academia in a field I love and getting to do things I wouldn’t get to do if my energies were expended towards slogging towards university. I am a regular contributor to the Popular Culture and Philosophy book series, which intersects popular media with philosophical learning—i.e. why Spock is a paragon of utilitarianism. I was able to discuss my disability and disability on a more philosophic level with the New York Times. And I’ll also be attending my first conference this summer discussing the fascistic nature of the relationship between the disabled subject and the able-bodied world. I don’t bring this up as an ego boost, I bring this up as an assurance, before the ensuing storm, that the landscape in the aftermath does not have to be one of bedlam and devastation but rather of an open terrain of possibilities whose variance is breathtaking to ponder. Now, you might be wondering what storm I am speaking of? The storm that will happen when the humanities formally loses the war against STEM fields and their politicization. In the last several years, multiple philosophy programs have been axed from universities. Now make no mistake, plenty of universities still host philosophy programs, but these are far from perfect, a point I will return to later. Because the fact is, no matter their imperfections, the existing philosophy programs as well as philosophy’s presence in society more generally may be taking a massive and potentially fatal hit. It has been reported that the Trump administration is looking to eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). When one researches the NEH, they immediately recognize that this organization has a vital role in maintaining philosophy’s pulse in the country, however faint it has become. This reality might instill in those affected a sense of anxiety and dread, and rightfully so. Some may be tempted to fight these measures with their every breath, a reaction I both commend and encourage. However, I want to play devil’s advocate here. Not in that I think these measures should succeed or that they’re sound measures to undertake, but I disagree that these measures would spell the end for philosophy and the humanities as a whole. In fact, not only do I think philosophers and philosophical education would survive, but I believe we could thrive. If institutionalized philosophy falls, then by extension all of its ills would fall with it. For one thing, institutionalized philosophy has a poor track record as it relates to representation in terms of gender, race, disability, etc. Another ill that befell institutionalized philosophy is the Euro-centric nature of the syllabi in philosophy programs. This is an issue that philosophers and student activists have at different points in time criticized and fought against. Finally, the biggest ill that institutionalized philosophy suffers from is the Ivory Tower stereotype that the scholarship produced doesn’t engage the public enough. While this illness has had people actively try to inoculate it, the fact is that the gap between institutionalized philosophy and public philosophy is incredibly wide and as a consequence, detrimental to the discipline as a whole. For philosophy to survive and thrive, I believe it must become fully immersed in public life. We must remember philosophers of the public such as Socrates and Confucius. Socrates gave his life because he believed in the value of philosophy to make people think critically and as a consequence, become a watchdog of the transgressions of the Athenian government. Confucius had a similar affect on the people of China; Confucianism became a widespread doctrine that affected the nation at every level of social life, and at one time in the last few years there was serious discussion that it might be making a comeback. We are not only capable of emulating the spirit of these philosophers, but surpassing them as well. We live in a digital age, where philosophy podcasts, instructional series, and literature abound. Creating public spheres for philosophical discourse would promote greater inclusion and accessibility in philosophy and of philosophical learning not just to people of varying genders, races, health, etc. but to people of differing economic classes who, judging by the exorbitant fees of certain academic publishers, are shown no regard. We can do better and, given the current social, economic, and political trends, we may have to. The developments happening in public philosophy right now are breathtaking. There are philosophers talking about disability, philosophers talking about race, and plenty of philosophers talking about Trump. But I don’t just desire for public philosophy to have riveting developments, I want public philosophy to become the norm. In essence, I want an age to dawn where the word “public” in public philosophy is received as a redundancy. Because in the age of Trump, where anti-intellectualism looms over every building of ivory and every grassy plain, philosophers must become a band of guerrilla fighters and take this battle to the open streets and make visible our scholarship and its revolutionary potential. In the end, our revolution must carry the fire of Deleuze’s words in its heart: Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns. It serves no established power. The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful. Philosophy needs to return to these very roots, if the normalization of Trump is to be effectively combated. But we must seek outside the refuges of learned minds. Sophia need not perish with the crumbling towers. Because if she did, her silence would only serve the state, and stupidity would know its greatest triumph. Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.