Dale Jamieson Defines Philosophy

Dale Jamieson joined the NYU faculty in Spring, 2004, from Carleton College, where he was Henry R. Luce Professor in Human Dimensions of Global Change. Previously he was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was the only faculty member to have won both the Dean's award for research in the social sciences and the Chancellor's award for research in the humanities. He has also held visiting positions at Cornell, Stanford, Princeton, Oxford and Monash.

Professor Jamieson's most recent book is Morality’s Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (Oxford, 2002). He is also the editor or co-editor of seven books, most recently A Companion to Environmental Philosophy (Blackwell, 2001), and Singer and his Critics (Blackwell, 1999), named by Choice as one of the outstanding academic books of 1999. He has also published more than eighty articles and book chapters. His research has been funded by the Ethics and Values Studies Program of the National Science Foundation, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Office of Global Programs in the National Atmospheric and Aeronautics Administration. He is on the editorial board of such journals as Environmental Ethics; Environmental Values; Science, Techology and Human Values; Science and Engineering Ethics; the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare; and The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.

  • Transcript


Question: How does philosophy relate to our everyday lives?

Dale Jamieson: I think there's a popular misunderstanding about what ethics is and what philosophy is. The philosophers have actually done a lot to propagate, I mean, I think of philosophy as a process, I think it's better. I mean, philosophy is not a body of knowledge to impart to someone, that's why reading philosophy books isn't always the best way of learning philosophy. Philosophy is really more the process of rational engagement, rational reflection with a diversity of views and ideas and opinions and trying to sort of reason your way through to a more reflective position. I think if you look at it that way, philosophizing is to some extent some small way a part of almost everyone's lives although they don't recognize it as such and a lot of people are embarrassed about it.

Question: What is embarrassing about philosophy?

Dale Jamieson: Depending on people's family situations and what they do for a living and all of that, you know, in some parts of American society, the idea of asking questions is considered, in some way, a kind of disloyalty or a way of, you know, not really getting on with things in the way that we should be getting on with things. And I think we have to do more and not only to say that that is important, that that kind of dialogue is central really to even somewhat argue to the idea of America, the traditional idea of America. But really, that's what philosophy is, I mean, philosophy isn't reading Emmanuel Kant. Philosophy is about thinking hard about what the right thing to do is in a situation and approaching that kind of question in an open-minded and open-hearted way, receptive to a broad range of considerations and interests of other people and other things.

Recorded on: April 15, 2009