This first answer was unnecessarily strong. For there is a second and less controversial answer that justifies concern with issues of public policy not as the philosopher’s task but as one of them. It makes problems of social and public policy a legitimate field of interest among others. This is a relatively humble view. It does not impose a duty or obligation on all philosophers to busy themselves with questions of this sort, but defends their right to do so against certain methodological purists, and against those whose conception of the subject matter of philosophical inquiry would exclude questions of public policy as improper themes of professional exploration and inquiry. Such purism is simply a form of intolerance, which would outlaw from the scope and sphere of philosophy important contributions to the discussion of human affairs by thinkers as disparate as Plato, Hegel, and John Stuart Mill. Such taboos are captious and arbitrary. But just as captious and arbitrary are those who would impose on all philosophers the necessity of taking a position as philosophers on those questions which as citizens they cannot escape. Questions of public policy should be the primary concern of those philosophers only who have a strong bent and special capacity for them.
(Sidney Hook, “Philosophy and Public Policy,” chap. 3 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 73-87, at 81 [italics in original] [essay first published in 1970])
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