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Philosophy gets a bad rap when it comes to its engagement with the world’s most pressing social problems. Recall that famous epigrammatic final note from Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” It may be tempting to take this line as a call to substitute studious reasoning for an “act first, think later” strategy. But that doesn’t seem to be Marx’s intention. Rather than being a call for “blind activism” that rejects “rational dialogue, discourse, or discussion,” Marx is better read as challenging philosophy to avoid becoming a barren discipline disconnected from social struggle (Cornel West, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought [New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991], 68–69). Marx’s point, in other words, was not that philosophers should move aside and let the activists handle things. Instead, he wanted to recommend a more purposeful role for philosophy in our society: a philosophy that informs activism and other social activity.


Copyright © 2024 The University of Chicago Press. Originally published as Fryer, Daniel. Review of The Movement for Black Lives: Philosophical Perspectives, Ethics 134, no. 2 (2024): 316. DOI:

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