Why Aren’t Philosophy and Journalism on Speaking Terms?

Carlin Romano has some strong words for academic philosophy:

Philosophy, as the intellectual enterprise that in its noblest form inspects all areas of life and questions each practice’s fundamental concepts and presumptions, should regularly look at all human activities broad and persistent enough not to be aberrations or idiosyncrasies. (The latter can be reserved for Independent Studies.)

Why, then, don’t you find “Philosophy of Journalism” among those staple courses? Why does philosophy, the academic discipline charged to reflect the noblest intellectual enterprise, avoid the subject while departments teem with abstruse courses mainly of interest to the tenured professors who teach them?

A few related questions come to mind. Why, at a time of breakneck technological and social revolution in news and newsrooms, do deans and presidents permit ossified philosophy departments to abdicate their responsibility to cover the world by not thinking about the media? How can it be that journalism and philosophy, the two humanistic intellectual activities that most boldly (and some think obnoxiously) vaunt their primary devotion to truth, are barely on speaking terms?

I understand the sentiment, but isn’t part of the point of philosophy that it occupies a separate track, somewhat divorced from the outside world? I don’t mean this as a knock—philosophy is supposed to examine certain ages-old questions whose ramifications for the here and now might not be immediately apparent. Also, given how much attention is paid to the media by other academic disciplines, is this situation really as urgent as Romano makes it out to be?

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.