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An interview with Philosophy Researcher Pelin Dilara Çolak

An interview with Philosophy Researcher Pelin Dilara Çolak
13.05.2024
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In today’s digitized world, our oldest intellectual traditions are undergoing significant transformations. Philosophy, in particular, has faced criticism for its perceived confinement within an ivory tower, accessible only to a privileged few. However, in recent years, both Turkish and English-speaking communities have witnessed philosophy-themed videos and audio content garnering millions of views. This surge in accessibility is driven by a new breed of philosophers—whom we might aptly dub as knowledge entrepreneurs—exploring innovative ways to disseminate their ideas. This modern approach to philosophy breaks from the conventions of the discipline’s 2500-year history, fostering increased interest among readers. Notably, during the pandemic, works such as Albert Camus’ “The Plague” and Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” soared to the top of best-seller lists in Europe. In this article, we engage in dialogue with Pelin Dilara Çolak, a prominent figure in Turkey’s philosophy content creation scene and a PhD student at King’s College London, to explore the evolving landscape of philosophy.

At a time when philosophy wasn’t as widely embraced in Turkey, you began producing content on platforms like YouTube. What inspired you to share your background in philosophy and art through social media content, and how has this motivation evolved over time?

A few years ago, accessible and understandable publications on philosophy were rare. Recognizing that philosophy is a practice that impacts everyone’s lives and provides insights into profound questions, I felt it was crucial to broaden access to this critical thinking model and its answers. This led me to contemplate, ‘What is the value of knowledge if I cannot effectively communicate it, even to my parents?’ Motivated by this, I envisioned creating a community that unites individuals in pursuit of a philosophical life. Through this initiative, my goal was to instill a sense of inquiry into what people thought they knew, making philosophy visible and approachable even to those unfamiliar with the subject.

 

This situation later prompted us to ponder ‘popular philosophy.’ What does popular philosophy signify to you? Do you believe it’s necessary to distinguish between academic philosophy and popular philosophy?

 

“Public philosophy is a distinction that has recently gained traction in scholarly literature. Today, there are postgraduate researchers delving into its methodology and societal significance. Much like the distinctions drawn in fields like popular science and science communication that have bolstered interest in science, I find it significant that a similar trend is unfolding within philosophy.

However, the demarcation between popular and academic philosophy is far from a simple dichotomy. Academic philosophy serves as the locus of philosophical production, characterized by its historical depth, terminological rigor, and attendant scholarly responsibilities. Conversely, popular philosophy encompasses content designed for a broad audience, often centered around practical philosophical topics accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds. In my view, the primary aim of this latter field is not merely to educate, but rather to inspire.”

 

As someone who makes a living through philosophy, how do you perceive the experience of being a philosopher in today’s world?

“Ever since my student days, whenever I mentioned my interest in philosophy, the typical response I received was often, ‘Studying philosophy will only lead to financial struggle.’ And there is some truth to this sentiment; indeed, there are limited job prospects specifically tailored for philosophy graduates. Consequently, many end up pursuing careers as educators, scholars, or in related fields like publishing. However, in today’s rapidly evolving world, even professions once considered secure are facing challenges of unemployment. Thus, recognizing the uncertainty inherent in most professions, except for a few core fields like IT, I advocate for investing time in pursuits that hold personal value and exploring avenues to transform them into viable careers. As evidenced by my own experience, individuals have the capacity to forge unexpected paths. I consider myself fortunate to earn a livelihood by sharing my work on digital platforms, thereby contributing value to society.”

 

While pursuing your philosophy education at King’s College London, are there any projects you’re considering initiating with the local communities?

“Certainly… The Turkish-speaking community in the UK is experiencing significant growth. The ventures and endeavors undertaken by individuals I’ve encountered here are truly inspiring. I’m enthusiastic about collaborating across the realms of philosophy, science, culture, and art. Specifically, I’m preparing to host seminars on the philosophy of art as part of the local art events. Hopefully, we’ll engage in joint initiatives that yield meaningful outcomes.”

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