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Stephen N. Williams


Public Intellectual

A conversation with Tom Morris

There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers," Thoreau wrote in Walden. The complaint is an old one, as old as philosophy itself, which suggests that an impulse to reform philosophy, to make it somehow more "real," is a perennial aspect of the philosophical enterprise—and thus that the claims of reformers need to be taken with a few grains of historical salt. At other times, too, the impulse may not be so much to reform philosophy as to "take it to the people," with the emphasis on that constructive project.

In our time these impulses assume many forms: inside the academy, for example, in the work of Pierre Hadot, whose book Philosophy as a Way of Life has had a powerful influence; outside, in the work of figures such as Christopher Phillips, author of Socrates Café and founder of the Society for Philosophical Inquiry (www.philosopher.org), a roving ambassador who travels throughout the United States promoting philosophical discussion in bookstores and prisons, schools and senior centers. There are also magazines such as Philosophy Now and The Philosophers' Magazine, intended to be accessible to readers with no professional stake in the discipline but with a lively interest in the subject.

Here we offer three such alternative conceptions of philosophy: in Stephen Williams' interview with the philosopher Tom Morris, who forsook the seminar room to address audiences at Merrill Lynch, General Motors, IBM, and other corporate venues; in Paige Hochschild's review of Hadot's book, What Is Ancient Philosophy?; and in Douglas Groothuis' account of Jesus as philosopher. All three shed light on the relationship between philosophy and Christian conviction.

Thomas Victor (Tom) Morris made an exceptional reputation for himself among Christian philosophers as a thinker, lecturer, and writer. He taught philosophy and philosophy of religion in one of the top departments anywhere, the University of Notre Dame, and won several teaching awards and acknowledgements. He ...

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