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The Editor’s Bit

by Rick Lewis

Welcome to the first issue of Philosophy Now. Congratulations on your good taste in buying it. But what is it for? There are already lots of magazines around. There are magazines for women, magazines for gardeners, and for motorcyclists, for anglers and aviators, for sailors and scientists. There are magazines of photography and philately and every other hobby under the sun. Surely we don’t need any more?

That rather depends who ‘we’ are, does it not? People with an interest in philosophy might have noticed that there is little on the newsagents’ shelves aimed specifically at them. The best they can hope for is to buy magazines of a more general nature and hunt through them for articles with a philosophical slant. The richest sources of such articles tend to be heavily committed to one cause or another, such as Marxism, or environmentalism, or feminism. “Good” says the Marxist “Everything is politics, anyway”. Well, there’s politics and there’s politics. If you want a non-political philosophy article you have to take out a subscription to the London Review of Books and then settle down for a long wait. Alternatively, you can go to your local university library and peruse the scholarly journals of philosophy. These, however, tend to be rather hard work.

I hope that the magazine will fulfil three distinct purposes.

Firstly, it will provide some relatively light and amusing reading matter for people involved in philosophy. You can read this magazine without making your brain hurt and yet also without guilt about those unwritten essays or unmarked exam papers, for you are doing philosophy. Students and ex-students of the subject should find plenty to argue over in these pages. Specialists in a particular area will sometimes find the coverage of their particular topic too superficial but should find Philosophy Now useful as a check on what is going on elsewhere in philosophy. Philosophers operating outside the confines of the university system can use the magazine to find out what’s new.

Secondly, it will provide those new to philosophy with a painless introduction to the subject. Many people in this country are deeply interested in philosophical questions. It really matters to them to know whether God exists, whether their lives have any meaning, even whether animals have souls. Very few know much about Western philosophy. The subject isn’t taught in many schools and most of the books and journals are written by specialists for specialists. Instead, people try to work out answers for themselves. They are doing philosophy, but would get on farther and faster if only they knew what has already been written on the subject. I would like to see a much more widespread knowledge of Western philosophy in this country, as I believe that it is just what a lot of people are looking for and that it would enrich their lives. Additionally, if more people knew some philosophy, then the politicians of all parties would find it much harder to get away with the inanities, non-sequiturs and tautologies which they currently use to ‘justify’ their ‘policies’ – and some clearer thinking on public issues might result.

Finally, by adopting a higher profile than any of the existing philosophy journals, Philosophy Now will (I hope) do a little to increase the general public’s awareness of philosophy. Philosophy departments in the universities are closing and being cut-back in a way which does not appear to be happening to computer science departments, for instance. Part of the reason for this must be that hardly anyone in this country knows what it is that philosophers do, and it is therefore naturally difficult to convince them that it is worth spending their money to support it. Philosophers must be straightforward about this, and must be self confident as well. The public needs philosophy. Philosophers still have a useful role to play.

I would like to thank all the people who have helped to make possible the launch of Philosophy Now. Particular thanks are due to everybody who submitted articles for this issue, whether or not they were eventually published. Everyone has been very tolerant about the delays inevitable in establishing a new publication.

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