What is this?
The Midwest Philosophy Distro, or MPD for short.
Philosophers do not spring up like mushrooms out of the ground. However, like mushrooms, philosophers need a place to grow.
Academic philosophy is collapsing. As a social activity, philosophy is still practiced by thousands of people who are doing very important work and are among some of the most brilliant philosophers who’ve ever lived. As an institution, philosophy is suffering the same fate as every other academic field that isn’t supported by Monsanto, Amazon, or Raytheon. Our one weakly held claim to a position in the modern university has been our ability to successfully train future lawyers to pass the LSAT, but no one has ever bothered to examine whether philosophy’s success in this regard functions better as a measure of class, not ability. Once “critical thinking” became a marketable skill this collapse was inevitable.
The internet was supposed to democratize information and detach its production from the market and other institutional controls. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen. Philosophers failed to use the internet to any great effect, and the best products of the last few decades of interconnectedness haven’t done anything to prevent or stall the oncoming collapse. Philosophy blogs have (for the most part) become places for professional philosophers to dictate the terms of the profession. Comfortable and tenured, philosophy bloggers most sit in their sedan chairs barking insults while the field burns around us all.
Academic institutions are dead or dying. What now? Some people have been calling for philosophers to begin building alternatives. Philosophers build systems of thought but they also need houses to live in and classrooms to teach in and chalk and paper and light to work. I suspect that for most philosophers the call to build alternatives rings hollow because imagining alternatives is hard, hard work. But this is exactly the kind of work philosophers are trained to do, so why are we stalling? We need better ways to get ideas into the world and better ways to talk to each other. We need conferences that don’t burn kerosene, journals that don’t kill trees or build walls, and philosophers that don’t want each other to suffer.
The MPD is an attempt to build an alternative.
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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash