On the Possibility of a Pop (or Pulp) Philosophy

Public lecture for the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy on February 28: Video available here.

In principle, philosophy is a popular practice, given that both its problems and the materials it uses to interrogate them are available to any modern human mind. But it’s also a two-thousand-year-old discipline with its own highly technical language, which for much of its history has been the preserve of idle aristocrats and, following a brief respite during the fleeting historical episode of the welfare state, now looks well on the way to becoming, once again, an esoteric specialism accessible only to the privileged few.

Drawing on my experience as an editor and publisher, and especially the publication over ten years of the journal Collapse and its reception by non-specialist audiences, I want to examine various models for what a modern pop—or pulp—philosophy could be, asking how one can possibly maintain the careful and rigorous cultivation demanded by philosophy within the boisterous jungle of memetics, marketing, and cultural production. Pop is not just popularity, and can’t be measured in audience numbers. It’s an aesthetic, social, and political question that involves thinking through the relation between form and content, integrity and generosity, democratic ideals and cognitive probity, commerce and commitment.