Jon Stewart as Philosopher King

I struggled to decide on which of my pages to put this fascinating list of the American Journal of Bioethics Editors’ Blog “Top 20 Essays of 2008”. Bioethics criss-crosses disciplines and pushed the edge of thinking in science, health, reproductive rights, public policy–you name it.

Whatever, these articles are important enough that attention should be paid. Will monkey cloning, done successfully in Oregon, lead to exciting medical discoveries or straight to cloning humans? Should Jill sell her eggs? How many, how, and for how much? Organ donation, stem cells, gene therapy, medical research protocols, and that pregnant transgender father. Talk about the personal meeting up with the political.

So it’s no wonder that one of the blogpost cites scholarly theories about the role of political pundits as the philosophers of our day. Citing this article from the Sacramento Bee about Jason Holt’s work on philosophy and the Daily Show:

Just as Socrates‘ and Diogenes’ reason-over-emotion doctrines served as an antidote to the sophists and rhetoricians of their day, Stewart’s nightly reports combat the dissembling of politicians and the blathering of mainstream media’s so-called “chattering class.” At least, that’s Holt’s thesis.

And then, there’s this: Socrates and Diogenes were as snarky then as Stewart is now.

Diogenes once lived in a bathtub to show citizens the folly of the pursuit of wealth and comfort. And Socrates was known for comically feigning ignorance – “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing” – to dissect an opponent’s argument.

Jason Holt, assistant professor at Acadia University in Canada, compiled a book of essays called “The Daily Show and Philosophy”, its title both tongue in cheek and serious.

For his part, Holt says that Stewart can show current philosophers and “public intellectuals,” such as himself, a thing or two.

“Intellectuals in the past used to do a lot more public engagement, reaching out behind the walls of the ivory tower,” Holt says. “Now, many have not taken this challenge up, and they’ve left a gap in the culture. A lot of pundits have taken over.

The Sacramento Bee article concludes: “And, of course, if Jon Stewart is Socrates you know what that makes Stephen Colbert? Plato.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

One thought on “Jon Stewart as Philosopher King

  1. Saturday Night Live at times serves this purpose as well. While we are lucky to have John Steward, Colbert and SNL, it’s a sad statement on current corporate journalism, which has become so lazy and obsessed with “balance” and ensuring their own access to the power brokers in DC by being overly-deferential to them and not asking tough questions, that they hardly can be called seen as serving their essential function in a democracy.

    The likes of Joe Klein, Chris Mathews and others actually at times socialize with the very people they are supposed to be reporting on- not a huge deal in and of itself but they seem to lose all perspective as they themselves become part of the political Washington elite- for them to criticize and analyze the government power-brokers would essentially mean that they would have to hold an analytical mirror up to themselves as they are part of the very system they are charged with confronting (journalistically)- something they certainly are not willing to do.

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