There has been some good discussion recently on what we should do as philosophers in these politically turbulent times. I myself have increasingly felt--especially as a moral and political philosopher--as though I should get more involved in "public philosophy": publishing pieces in non-academic outlets for a broader audience.
To that end, dating back to early last summer, I composed a handful of pieces on contemporary social, political, and economic affairs. Alas, I haven't (yet) had any luck with them (a few of them have been under review, others turned into academic pieces and submitted to journals, etc.). I've also really struggled as a writer to feel like I can hit the right level of sophistication versus accessibility. On the one hand, whenever I write something short and super-accessible (the kinds of things popular venues tend to publish), I feel like the piece is terrible--too polemic, glossing over important intricacies and supporting facts or theories (I think it's important to base public arguments on facts!). On the other hand, whenever I write something I feel better about, it seems more like an academic piece (much longer, rife with citations, etc.).
In any case, because doing "public philosophy" isn't something that most of us academic philosophers have experience with or training in, I thought it might be good to get some tips from people who have done it successfully. Here are just a few questions I have:
- What's the best way to go about the process (i.e. submitting proposals, pieces, etc.)?
- Do you need to have an "in" with an editor to be successful?
- What tips do you have for "hitting the right level" for readers?
- Which venues would you suggest?
I'm particularly interested in question (2), in part because as John Scdwenkler notes here, "I have written a bunch of reviews and essays for popular publications. It's always been by way of contact with an editor (sometimes initiated from their end). I have tried submitted unsolicited things once or twice, and I don't think that's ever worked out."
Any public philosophers out there have any helpful tips for those of us who want to get more involved?