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Getting philosophical about daily life

David Hildebrand: Getting philosophical about daily life

For many people, philosophy is an abstract area of study that deals with esoteric discussions about ultimate truth and the meaning of life. But David Hildebrand, associate professor of philosophy, is working hard and writing more to dispel that simplistic notion.

Hildebrand, who recently published Dewey – A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld Publications), says the philosophical underpinnings of today’s debates on public policy are often overlooked.

"I think philosophy is already a vital part of what the average person thinks about every day," says Hildebrand. "If they’re following the news—watching Wall Street get a bailout and lawmakers struggling with a bailout for the auto industry—they’re wondering ‘What is justice?’ ‘What’s fair?’ All these issues are fundamentally philosophical ones."

Hildebrand has written exensively for his peers, including an academic monograph on pragmatists and neopragmatists. But he believes his recent beginner’s guide on pragmatist John Dewey provides valuable insight for many who watch economic and political upheavals unfold daily.

"Pragmatists" explains Hildebrand, "believe you have to let go of this ancient instinct of ours to have one final truth. We live in a changing world, we’re constantly facing new situations and no theory, principle or strategy is going to last forever."

While he’ll continue writing for his peers he says, something that’s caught his attention recently is communication in today’s increasingly fast-paced world and the tidal wave of information that swamps people every day. Does this deluge of information have an impact on our ability to have in-depth discussions on important public policy issues? Does that, in turn, affect our ability as a society to reach consensus on long-term goals?

Hildebrand is still forming the questions. "I guess," he says. "I’m going to have to see where the ideas lead me."


Reprinted from the 2009 issue of Pinnacle.