Civil American

An open-access, peer-reviewed journal for general audiences.

The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) announces the opening of Civil American, our latest venue for public philosophical engagement, released as a peer-reviewed digital journal on our Web site. Each piece will be released individually and will then be archived in a yearly volume. Civil American is a place for scholars in philosophy or other fields, students, and SOPHIA members to submit short essays, between 700 and 3,000 words (shorter and longer pieces will be considered), on topics of importance for living and policy-making, as individuals and communities.

Logo for 'Civil American,' featuring the tag line: 'Philosophy for Everyone.'

Given our 2015 strategic planning initiative, the mission of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) is “to use the tools of philosophical inquiry to improve people’s lives and enrich the profession of philosophy through conversation and community building.” In pursuit of that mission, two of our four strategic goals are “to use technology effectively” and to “to engage with the profession on public philosophy and digital humanities.”

To these ends, we open up SOPHIA’s online space as a forum for publicly engaged philosophy, to talk about issues and problems that matter to people both in and beyond the academy. Our emphasis is on accessibility of style and importance of subject matter. Following trends of digital publishing, we will consider the pieces released here to be in a volume gathered by year.

Cover of an issue of Scientific American.SOPHIA Trustees Dr. John Shook and Dr. Eric Thomas Weber first envisioned Civil American as a journal targeting general-audiences, a philosophical equivalent to the great publication, Scientific American. The United States have an immensely rich intellectual tradition, yet much discourse in the public sphere tends to be sensationalist, rather than civil and philosophical.

We welcome proposals for panels of submissions from groups interested in writing on topics in common. Gathered pieces may also be invited to join together in further advancement of their projects for growth in The Public Philosophy Journal‘s developmental and open peer-review process. Shorter projects can begin here and, if desired, be lengthened and deepened through such collaborations.

Photo of Dr. Shane Courtland.More information about Civil American is forthcoming now that we have selected the new editor for the journal, Dr. Shane Courtland. If you have any questions or proposals for submission to Civil American, you can email the Editor here.



Editorial Board

Elizabeth Anderson (University Michigan)
Peter Boghossian (Portland State University)
Thom Brooks (Durham University)
Daniel Brunson (Morgan State University)
Shane Courtland (West Virginia University)
Tommy Curry (Texas A&M University)
Marilyn Fischer (University of Dayton)
William Irwin (King’s College)
Jackie Kegley (California State University Bakersfield)
John Lachs (Vanderbilt University)
Jana Mohr Lone (University Washington)
Christopher P. Long (Michigan State University)
George R. Lucas (University of Notre Dame)
Michael Patrick Lynch (University of Connecticut)
Bertha Alvarez Manninen (Arizona State University)
John McDermott (Texas A&M University)
Scott Pratt (University of Oregon)
Gad Saad (Concordia University)
Michael Shermer (Chapman University)
John Shook (Bowie State University)
Peter Singer (Princeton University)
Eric Thomas Weber (University of Kentucky)


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Volume 3: 2018

  • Waking from the Dream of Total Victory in the Contests for Public Truth
    January 19, 2018 | By Paul Croce | Can academics support the democratic struggle not just to critique fake news, but also to engage the public in the stories that make those false facts appealing?   The Oxford English Dictionary named “Post-Truth” its Word of the Year for 2016. The dictionary cites “appeals to emotion or personal belief,” which have gained ...

Volume 2: 2017

  • Humanizing Monsters
    October 31, 2017 | By Casey Dorman | I was listening to NPR recently and an interviewer was talking to Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian professor of political science, who had just published an edited collection of essays/research studies called Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists. One of the interviewer’s questions was “Aren’t you afraid that ...
  • John Stuart Mill and Charlottesville
    October 20, 2017 | By Dale E. Miller | I consider myself a Millian—that is, a follower of the Victorian philosopher of morals, social life, and politics (and much else besides) John Stuart Mill (1806–73). Usually I’m a fairly confident Millian; some might even say smug. Mill’s work has, like the work of all important philosophers, been subjected to ...
  • Clutter
    September 16, 2017 | By John Lachs | When our ancestors lived in caves, every tool was a prized possession. Furs for comfort and drawings to decorate the cave were difficult to come by. They were passed down from generation to generation. Later, when human productivity made the goods of the world readily available, our grandparents became collectors. Growing control ...
  • State-Sponsored Hacktivism and “Soft War”
    May 25, 2017 | By George R. Lucas | A Moral and Legal Challenge in the Cyber Domain | Skeptics (e.g., Thomas Rid, 2013) have cast doubt on the notion of authentic cyber warfare.  Cyber conflict consists, the skeptics argue, solely of activities which fall well short of full scale warfare:  e.g., crime, vandalism, “hacktivism” (political activism by individuals and ...
  • The Illusion of Purely Rational Discussion: A Reply to Courtland’s Reply
    January 3, 2017 | By Sergia Hay | I’d like to thank Shane Courtland for his reply to my response to his original posting, “Faith and Betrayal of the Philosophical Method.” I’m eager to continue this conversation about an important and timely subject: free speech in the classroom, and perhaps more broadly within public discourse. As such, it is also ...

Volume 1: 2016

  • Faith Without Dead Dogma: A Reply to Hay
    December 21, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | After reading a thoughtful response from Dr. Hay regarding my previous blog post, I thought it would be helpful to discuss my philosophical pedagogy. Even if you have never taken a philosophy class before, the core elements of my teaching method are still applicable outside of the classroom. Moreover, describing how ...
  • What Philosophy Is For: A Reply to Courtland
    December 13, 2016 | By Sergia Hay | I wholeheartedly agree with Shane Courtland when he writes in Civil American that being a philosopher means “giving pride of place to open discussion, encouraging intellectual diversity, and allowing a difference of opinion regarding even dangerous ideas.” I also believe it means, among other things, laying bare assumptions, defining terms, distinguishing between seemingly ...
  • Faith and Betrayal of the Philosophical Method
    December 4, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | Please note: The following essay is autobiographical. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience. As with all personal events, those who have experienced this on the other side have very different feelings about the situation. The way I have always viewed philosophy, regarding its practice and how it ...
  • Breaking Out of the Bubble: Fixing American Politics
    November 11, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | For approximately 5 years, I was the director of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy (CEPP) at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. As the director, I was charged with producing and executing various campus wide events.  My specialty, was the panel discussion.  This would bring multiple experts to the table ...
  • ‘What Ifs’ and No Regrets
    October 31, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | One often hears the expression “You should live your life without regrets” in the same situations that one hears expressions such as “carpe diem” and “YOLO.” The basic idea is that you should live your life to the fullest. One day, if you are lucky to be living, you will be ...