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Fellow grad student.

A number of philosophers contribute to philosophy in prison programs. I know at least two of our faculty have done this.


Seneca once said that philosophers are and should be lawyers for humanity. What does a lawyer do? They represent those who cannot adequately represent themselves. They are also a source of reference (e.g. knowledge) for others. Just like a teacher and a guidance counselor, philosophers should be a source of reference for oppressed people. However, the references should aim and function to also be fruitful and accessible for them.

Like Seneca said, have your philosophy ready. Doctors and nurses are usually prepared for when an emergency arises. They act and think fast. They usually know just what to do in many emergencies. Likewise, as a philosopher, have your references and skills ready for when you need to use them and give them to others.

The benefit and privilege of living in the internet age are that information travels quickly, transparently, and efficiently. Don’t take this era of human existence for granted. It’s a privilege and an honor to be ”thrown” into this era of human existence. Cherish it. The oppressed in the past did not have the luxury we have today in terms of the internet. I suspect they would want us to take advantage of the Internet as much as we can to communicate with others, educate those who may need us, or give them resources to use to help alleviate their suffering or problems.


Here's a take from an effective altruism viewpoint:


Derek Bowman

I think we should also be prepared for the possibility that - beyond teaching students - we don't have much to offer qua philosophers. In that case, we shouldn't be embarrassed to engage in other less specialized forms of service, as Les Green suggests here: https://ljmgreen.com/2020/03/31/jurisprudence-in-a-pandemic/

And we shouldn't minimize the value of teaching, or reduce 'teaching' down to 'providing instruction to fees-paying college students in degree programs.' As the first suggestion from "Fellow grad student" highlights, there are many people who might benefit from being invited into philosophical conversation and reflection beyond the halls of academia.


If you’re in ethics/political philosophy, and depending on the country, you can also work in policy advice, public advisory boards, work with business ethics initiatives or unions, sit on advisory panels for empirical research projects as „ethics advisor“, etc. This usually follows public philosophy - if you’re somewhat present in the media with a „theme“, the invitations come. And something I’ve only fully realized recently: I have quite a lot of conversations about ethical questions with friends or family who work in various areas of life (medicine, middle schools, private companies, etc.). Not so much giving advice but rather thinking things through together. I hope that something positive comes from this as well.

David Slakter

Your local universities or hospitals may need a non-specialist volunteer for their institutional review board, or IRB. This would require reviewing submissions for human subjects research for ethical concerns. Just reach out to IRB head and ask if they're looking for community members for their board.

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