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PHI 2301 Assignment Philosophy and Social Justice

PHI 2301 Assignment Philosophy and Social Justice

 

Field philosophy is philosophical practice for the sake of collaborative problem-solving. When philosophers pursue fieldwork, they may be collaborating with community groups to address a social or environmental problem, advising policy-makers or professionals, or contributing to academic research projects outside the discipline. What these projects have in common is that a theoretical or critical perspective is needed, and the analytic, interpretive, or facilitative skills of philosophers are directly useful. But to be a field philosopher is not merely to be a philosopher-for-hire – it should also be understood as a form of research since fieldwork undertakes to study philosophical problems as they emerge in real-world settings. It then brings insights from the field back to the academy.

Field philosophy is a way of pursuing philosophical inquiry that prioritizes direct engagement with non-philosophers. It has no unique content, since field philosophers may be specialists in ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, metaphysics, or whatever theoretical approach is relevant to a particular inquiry. Neither does it have a unique method in the sense of exclusively using, for example, logical analysis, ordinary language analysis, phenomenology, or hermeneutics. There are also no constraints on the kinds of problems it addresses. Consider some real-life examples: field philosophers have included bioethicists working with health care professionals to develop surgical protocols, environmental philosophers working with land managers to articulate priorities for wildland preservation, and logicians working with programmers on applications in computational mathematics.

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This paper argues that although field philosophy is wide open with regard to philosophical content and methods, there is a distinct and strong affinity between field philosophy and the aims of social justice. This affinity rests on what field philosophy gives and what it gets. Namely, field philosophy provides philosophical resources that are valuable to groups working toward justice, and at the same time, real-life struggles for social justice motivate and direct philosophical practice. Before supporting this positive thesis with an enumeration of particular ways that field philosophy relates to social justice concerns, I will evaluate three alternative views: first, that field philosophers are ill-suited for working with communities toward social justice; second, that field philosophers violate a professional code by working toward social justice; and, third, that philosophers are morally bound to conceive of their role vis-à-vis real-world injustice as revolutionaries, not reformers. I will end by testing the strength of the affinity between philosophical fieldwork and the aims of justice by considering how field philosophy can be practiced in different parts of the globe.

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