Who we are and what do we want?
The Philosophers’ Mail is a new news organisation, with bureaux in London, Amsterdam and Melbourne, run and staffed entirely by philosophers.
It is committed to bringing you the latest, biggest stories, as interpreted by philosophers rather than journalists.
Why did this organisation start? Because today, the most attractive, charming, sexy and compelling news outlets enjoy unparalled influence over the minds of tens of millions of people. But unfortunately, they rarely put out content that might make the world a better place.
At the same time, there are lots of serious, earnest good people attempting to change things, but they put out publications full of very interesting and dense articles that only reach tiny and already-convinced audiences.
So the good ideas go nowhere and the not-so-great ideas mesmerise us from every screen. Therefore, the world doesn’t change.
The goal of the Philosopher’s Mail is to prove a genuinely popular and populist news outlet which at the same time is alive to traditional philosophical virtues.
Miley Cyrus: Not so interesting, but many are looking.
For too long, philosophers have been happy merely to be wise and right. This has offered them huge professional satisfaction but it has not influenced the course of society. The average work of philosophy currently reaches 300 people.
Socrates: Very interesting but not that many people care.
Hence the challenge that explains the birth of The Philosophers’ Mail, a new media outlet rooted in popular interests, sensibilities and inclinations of the day – but that tries to read and caption the news with an eye to traditional central philosophical concerns – for compassion, truth, justice, complexity, calm, empathy and wisdom.
The site views the rolling succession of the day’s news as an occasion for the development of insight, generosity and emotional intelligence.
News is not simply information about what is happening in the world. It is one of the key places where we daily shape our underlying assumptions about life – about what is important, admirable, scandalous, normal; where we rehearse attitudes to fear, hope, good and evil. This is why the news is a major target of concern for real philosophers.
The Philosophers’ Mail makes use of popular starting points – the stories a lot of people like to read and talk about already. It is generous to our natural inclinations: to read celebrity gossip, look at erotic images and read shock stories. It is sympathetic (as a starting point) to popular biases: anxiety about whatever feels foreign, a taste for vengeance, lack of empathy for the very poor, envy of the very rich, resentment of the powerful, suspicion of those who seem clever, dislike of awkward truths…
We start by acknowledging such attitudes: it isn’t strange to be unnerved by a Romanian family begging on a French train; it would be thrilling to have sex with Jennifer Lawrence; one can empathise with the feeling that George Osborne doesn’t quite know what real life is like; it is natural to want to switch off when hearing about trouble in Africa.
We don’t start by asking what the wise or good or serious outlook might be. There are plenty of people pushing such lines already – for that one could turn to the Economist, or the New York Times.
The epochal challenge is to reach the people who don’t engage with complex news.
Ripe for philosophical insights. Kim in party mode.