Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices



Philopolis is a festival of philosophy, open to the public and totally free. Our idea is to bring the diversity of academic theorization back into contact with the diversity of practice one finds in the broader community, with the goal of enriching both theory and practice.

Started in Montreal in 2010, the festival still takes place annually there in the spring, and has also spread to Guelph, ON where it takes place annually in the fall. Philopolis is a great venue to use for engaging the general public in philosophical reflection. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource, and to consider the possibility of bringing Philopolis to your city with the support of our existing committees.

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Latest Activity: Oct 25, 2017

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Comment by David Brooke Struck on May 28, 2013 at 12:21pm

Hi folks. The call for activities for Philopolis Guelph is now open! You can get more info on our website, and on Facebook. The deadline for submission, which takes place through the online form on our site, is September 1. The festival itself takes place October 4–6. Hope to see you there!

Comment by David Brooke Struck on April 21, 2013 at 11:48am

I've taken some insights that I've gathered over the last few months and put together a 4-part reflection piece on the nature and direction of Philopolis. Very interested in getting some commentary, as I think that it's a critical moment for our project to define itself a little bit better. Why now? Because it looks like we'll soon be expanding to a new city once again!!

Comment by David Brooke Struck on March 27, 2013 at 10:16pm

Yeah, while Montreal has a decent public intellectual culture, the rest of Canada is quite a more difficult market to crack. But Philopolis isn't just about capitalizing on that market: it's actually about growing that market. Part of what we need to do is show people what the value of philosophy is. That's something to keep in mind when deciding whether Philopolis could flourish in your area. It's not just about existing interest, but about the potential to put together a quality event that would build interest.

As for interactions with the public benefiting academic culture (and research) I definitely agree. It's such a shame that more people don't. However, efforts like Philopolis aim to rekindle a relationship between the academic world and the broader world of which it is undeniably a part. And a part that needs repairing.

Comment by Ed D'Angelo on March 27, 2013 at 11:58am

Excellent! You are so fortunate to enjoy a public intellectual culture in Montreal. I'm afraid the USA has gone in a very different direction with regard to the humanities.

In addition to bringing the philosophical tradition to the public, I believe another benefit of what you are doing is to improve academic culture by exposing it to the general public. Thought does not exist in a vacuum. It is shaped by the institutional context in which it occurs. By engaging with the public you tear the walls of the academy down and change the context within which serious thought can occur. So it is not just the public who benefits. It is also the academy.

Comment by David Brooke Struck on March 27, 2013 at 10:45am

Just another quick thing: Philopolis runs in Montreal every spring, and in Guelph every fall. I'd encourage everyone to take advantage of those resources as ways not only to disseminate your research, but also to enrich it through the discussions that invariably follow.

Also, if you think that there's enough interest in your local area, I'd be happy to help you through the process of hosting your own Philopolis event.

Comment by David Brooke Struck on March 27, 2013 at 10:43am

Philopolis runs in two cities: Montreal, QC; and Guelph, Ontario. In Montreal, the event runs for 3 days (intro event Friday evening, about 100 activities throughout Saturday and Sunday). It's held on campus, and open to the general public, including academics, and from what I can see the main draw is students, but I wasn't able to attend Philopolie Montreal 2013, so it may have grown more visible in the broader community. Montreal is a pretty special location for this event: because of its strong European feel, academics play a more prominent public role in Quebec society than they do in the rest of North America. Furthermore, there's a lot more public support for the humanities and the arts, and the universities play an important cultural role in the city. Many people don't find it uncommon for a cultural event to take place on a university campus in Montreal. That's my feeling on the situation, anyway, and I grew up in Montreal.

In Guelph, things are quite different. The event usually only runs for 2 days (Friday intro, about 35 events on Saturday). Again, open to everyone. However, universities play a different role in Ontario than they do in Quebec, and people are a bit more reluctant to head down the campus for a day of fun on a Saturday. That's why we hold the events in cafes in Guelph, rather than at the university. We want to meet the general public on their own turf, both figuratively and literally. I've been heading the Guelph committee for the last two years, so I know a lot more about the recent developments there than I do about Montreal. Our outreach mainly comes through advertising in public places: newspapers, magazines, cafes, bookstores, etc. This year, we're also going to experiment with "Philopolis Redux," which will be a presentation of some of last year's events, offered free and outdoors in the main square downtown. We're hoping that that will grab some attention. Of course, the project always seems to start out much more popular with academics than it does with the rest of the community, but the popularity with that broader community seems to grow with each event. We're always advertising and pushing the envelope, but we feel that one of the most important ways of growing this project is just to keep it running and let word of mouth spread. It isn't the fastest method, but it does the best job.

If you'd like to have a look at the content of some of our activities, I'd suggest checking out some of the schedules:

As far as my own approach goes, I share your view: the best way to get people interested in asking questions is to start from a question that they're already asking themselves, and then use the benefits of my years of study to ask further questions to help them explore some potential answers. For example, in my last talk, I looked at the publication of the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, and then explained Cassirer's philosophy of myth as a way of understanding what injunctions against iconography might mean, and therefore what these publications are actually saying to those whose faith includes such injunctions. That allowed us to better understand the reactions that people had to the event, and led us into a very interesting discussion about free speech especially when it comes to religious views. My opening gambit is always practical: the philosophy just provides me a way of understanding what's going on.

Comment by Ed D'Angelo on March 26, 2013 at 9:55pm

So Philopolis is a three day conference held on a university campus which is free and open to the general public as well as the featured academic speakers? What kind of outreach have you tried to draw in the general public? What are the demographics of the non-academic population that attends? How successful have you been in attracting the non-academic public? What is it about the content of your discussions and workshops that attracts the non-academic public?

My own feeling is that humans are by nature philosophical in the sense that we all develop conceptual schemes to understand our world. Philosophy appeals most to the public when it starts with the conceptual schemes that people already have and helps them further clarify and develop those concepts.  


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