The University of Warwick has created the first ever UK “Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy”, charged with bringing philosophy to as wide an audience as possible in Britain and beyond.
Dr Angie Hobbs takes up the new role with immediate effect. In recent years Universities have tasked researchers with the job of creating a better public understanding and engagement with science, but this is believed to be the first time ever that a UK University has tasked someone with making philosophy accessible to as wide a range of the public as possible. Her appointment has been welcomed by Melvyn Bragg, who said:
"I can't think of anyone better suited to be the 'Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy'. Angie Hobbs' appearances on 'In Our Time' have confirmed her outstanding ability to bring a large public to the High Table of philosophy. Warwick University has done a favour to us all."
When asked why she wanted to take philosophy beyond the lecture room and academic texts to a much wider public, she said:
“Because it's fun! I really want to emphasise the pleasurable side of engaging with philosophy. Presented in different ways, it can be enjoyed by almost all age groups from around 7 upwards, and by people with many different levels of educational attainment.”
“It can also help expand our resources for tackling the big problems of the day from financial crisis to environmental issues. It can enlighten debates about whether we should prioritise the global or the local; the purpose and nature of education; and how to live in a society with different, and sometimes apparently competing, values.
“Philosophy can improve the clarity and rigour of rational argument and conceptual analysis i.e. which are the essential conflicts and which are merely contingent; what does the word under discussion really mean and is everyone using it in the same way; what follows from believing X and what follows from believing Y. It's also often social. Philosophy is often best conducted in dialogue between two or more people. It can thus increase our understanding of different points of view and help us to work together in looking for solutions. It can help us to listen as well as to articulate our ideas.”
As well as her wide-ranging work in traditional print and broadcast media, Dr Hobbs will explore how to use social media such as Twitter to bring philosophy to a wide public. She says “Philosophy offers us a wide range of historical 'answers' to the big questions - for instance looking at what the ancient Greeks said about how humans can best live together.’ We should not be surprised if some of those ancient opinions start appearing in our 21st century social media very soon.
Dr Hobbs will also be working with IGGY (the International Gateway for Gifted and Talented Youth) to spread the word of philosophy. ‘Philosophy is accessible and beneficial to all, but it is undeniable that beyond a certain level it is difficult and challenging. However, this is a good thing, as tackling the harder aspects of the subject can help build confidence and self-esteem and most people are much brighter than they think they are and can cope with pretty difficult material..”
For more information please contact:
Peter Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick,
Tel: 024 76 523708 m mobile/Cell 07767 655860
PR115 PJD 6th October 2009
Listen to a podcast interview with Dr Angie Hobbs about her new role