Philosophy as Public Service

Silhouette of person in prison

The UNC College of Arts & Sciences philosophy department and UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics are using their intellectual resources to serve various members of the surrounding community, including North Carolinians in correctional centers.

The prison-outreach program allows offenders to take philosophy courses led by faculty, graduate students and undergraduates at Carolina. Through anonymous exchanges by mail, the offenders and their correspondents in Chapel Hill have philosophical discussions surrounding topics such as anger, forgiveness and the merits of practicing philosophy.

The offenders are drawn to participate in these classes for various reasons, such as wanting to stimulate their minds and have meaningful conversations with others. As for the Carolina community, programs like these fulfill the University’s commitment to serving the state, broaden the scope of classroom conversations and help people of all backgrounds practice philosophy in their everyday lives. 

“It’s important for people to think carefully and clearly for themselves about their commitments, about the shape of their lives,” Vazquez said. “Humans are naturally disposed to inquire, so everyone brings a distinctive share of expertise to the table. There’s also a meaningful social dimension to these programs. We find fulfillment in thinking in community and alongside others.”

Read the complete Carolina Story to learn more about this program…

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