Philosophy and Activism

at Work
April 19, 2023 10:00 - 18:00
Centre for Social Critique Charlottenstr. 42, 3 floor

William Callison, Gen Eickers, Daniel James, Antoine Louette, Deborah Mühlebach, Cain Shelley, Veronika Zablotsky and Temi Ogunye discuss the relationship of activism and philosophy.


Political and social philosophers have often sought to change the world in theory. But activists already try in practice. And so one might wonder: how can philosophy respond to the work of activists?

One answer is to undertake something like a philosophy of activism: some philosophers helpfully distinguish between different forms of activism, for example, depending on whether it is reformist or transformative, emancipatory or regressive, violent or non-violent, civil or uncivil.

But philosophers do not have a monopoly on theory, and another option is to engage with what activists think: thus some philosophers aim at articulating and criticizing the values, the concepts, and the arguments that are put forward by left- or right-wing social movements.

Still others, however, do not simply take inspiration from activist theorising: they themselves intend to add to a movement’s intellectual production, for example by attempting to ‘illuminate […] injustice in ways that provide a basis for resistance’, as Sally Haslanger has put it.

These three answers are not mutually exclusive. Philosophy of activism or activism-inspired philosophy can provide some basis for resistance, for instance. They also need refining: should activist philosophy be ‘organic’ or ‘specific’, for example, to borrow from Gramsci and Foucault? And how about ‘collective’, as Bourdieu suggested? Still, one might find these answers a useful starting point for thinking about the relationship between philosophy and activism. It is only a starting point, however: in order to go further, William Callison, Gen Eickers, Jessica Feely, Daniel James, Antoine Louette, Deborah Mühlebach, Cain Shelley, and Veronika Zablotsky meet at the Centre for Social Critique on April 19, 2023 to discuss those aspects of their philosophical work that are related to activism.

Organized by Jessica Feely and Antoine Louette, current fellows at Centre for Social Critique

Philosophy and Activism