I’ve heard so many times in life, to be truly happy, you gotta do what you love. I love philosophy. NO joke. I do. I love thinking about things and studying the ideas behind everything we do and believe. I love philosophy so much that I wrote a book about it. It’s called Mindless Philosopher: How Philosophy Taught Me Everything I Needed To Know About Popular Culture.
Like every other philosopher out there, I also share the single-minded belief that philosophy is not only still relevant in our pop-driven culture, but that I’m just the philosopher to bring philosophy back to the intellectual discourse-starved masses.
Lofty ideals, I know.
I know that I love philosophy (as much as any person can “love” an abstract, anyway). I know that I want to spread the word of critical thinking to the people (a particularly relevant goal given the Texas GOP’s opposition to “critical thinking skills”*). But here’s my problem: my goal isn’t quite working out the way I want it to. I know this might be difficult to believe, but I haven’t exactly succeeded in bringing philosophy back to the masses.
One problem might be that I insist on calling people “the masses”.
I blame that on Marx.
* by the way, if you think I’m either joking or lying about the Texas GOP, I’m not. Check this out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/texas-gop-rejects-critical-thinking-skills-really/2012/07/08/gJQAHNpFXW_blog.html
Anyone who has a dollar in their wallet (right now I have two. At least I’m making money like a philosopher) knows that the key to success is popularity. And the key to popularity is marketing. If I want to make philosophy, specifically philosophy written by me, popular, I have to market it correctly. That means I have to make philosophy interesting to people who aren’t inclined to read philosophy.
I think the professionals call that knowing your audience.
Wait — hold up. I’m hearing Karl Marx screaming in my ear. He’s saying something about bourgeois property and the victory of the proletariat.
Obviously Marx knows nothing about selling a book.
Did I mention that I’ve written a book?
I did, you know.
Anyway, we all know that philosophers are a dime a dozen (probably not even worth that much these days), and everybody’s got something to say about everything.
… even Dr. drew’s got a night-time show.
If everybody out there thinks they got some kind of philosophy that everybody needs to know, marketability is a not-too-unimportant thing. So, I ask, what makes me marketable? What things about me can I exploit to my philosophical advantage? I gotta admit, that up until now my
unsuccessful tactic has to be neutral — that is, I use my initials instead of my real name. I use a picture of Nietzsche, dressed in a Superman outfit, wearing a cape instead of using a picture of the real me. When I write philosophy, I’ve decided to make sure not to reveal that I am neither male nor white (you see, most philosophers are male and white). I’m beginning to think this wasn’t a wise move.
It seems my attempt at neutrality might have neutralized my philosophy career.
Although pretty much everybody in one way or another does philosophy, among professional philosophers, women — especially minority women — are pretty rare. I want to be a philosopher, but I know if I write from a “female perspective”, I’ll end with a BIG OL’ NAME TAG that says feminist philosopher.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate feminism and I appreciate feminist philosophers. But when people think of an image of what happens when feminism meets philosophy, this is sometimes what they think:
If I tell people what I am a black (yes, I still use the word “black”) feminist philosopher, people might think this:
Being a philosopher is all about truth, and truth be told, this may be my most pressing philosophical dilemma.
I think Sartre said our most pressing philosophical dilemma is deciding if should or shouldn’t commit suicide.
I have no idea why Sartre would say something like that.
Maybe it was because he didn’t feel his philosophy was very marketable.
He should have written a book.
I know if I want to get my name up there with the philosophy big kids I got to make myself marketable…
Hmmm… Kim Kardashian got popular with a sex tape.
I don’t think that’ll go over with the philosophy crowd, though.
*by the way, if anyone knows of a sex tape with a philosopher, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
… I’ll write a book about you.