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The Writing Desk

Introducing The Raven

Welcome to the first issue of The Raven, a magazine devoted to reviving the tradition of philosophical literature that deserves to be called literature. The Raven will publish original philosophy that is welcoming to readers with or without academic training in philosophy.

Although “public philosophy” as currently practiced benefits the profession of philosophy—and, one hopes, the public as well—it rarely involves practicing the discipline of philosophy in public. It tends to address issues that are already of interest to a non-academic audience, in a manner already familiar to it. We believe that philosophy worth claiming public attention can do more. The Raven will invite its audience to consider specifically philosophical questions and apply philosophical methods to them.

The launch of this magazine is a confluence of two different streams of experience. One of us was disappointed as an academic philosopher to see the philosophical literature professionalized at the expense of the humane concerns and tastes to which it spoke until recently. The other was frustrated as a journalist and magazine editor to see popular literary magazines publishing essays that parade as philosophy but are nothing of the sort. We both wanted to read philosophy that’s intellectually ambitious but professionally unassuming.

Of course, there are philosophical topics that require specialist knowledge or skills, and it is not our aim to popularize them. But large swathes of philosophy can be intriguing and approachable to large swathes of the educated public. Today’s philosophers are still referring to Harry Frankfurt’s “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” Susan Wolf’s “Moral Saints,” or Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”—thought-provoking essays published in an earlier era by prestigious professional journals in which one would be hard pressed to find their like today.

Not all of our offerings will emulate those classics. The Raven is a magazine, not an academic journal, and so it is committed to offering a variety of reader experiences. In addition to feature-length articles, we will publish shorter philosophical notes, sometimes with an eye to popular trends, as well as book reviews. And our mission will no doubt evolve as we learn what writers want to write and readers want to read.

The magazine would not be possible without the support of the William H. Miller III Philosophy Department of Johns Hopkins University, our editorial committee, and our contributors. With their help, we hope to grow and flourish in a way pleasing to you, our readers.

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