The philosophy I aspire to is occasional, relational, and practical: equal to its moment, conducted with others, and understood as a way of life.
Consider the IDS Center’s ‘Crystal Court’, pictured above. On Dakota land in what most now call downtown Minneapolis, the IDS Center is the tallest building in Minnesota. The ironically named Accesso Partners, which owns the IDS Center, describes the Crystal Court as an ‘urban park’. And it thinks it has made one: 18 black olive trees, 68 white benches, a 105-foot waterfall. If you and I were to ride the atrium’s escalator to the skyway level, we’d see what a strange park this is. No ball fields. No public bathrooms. Nothing public at all. Instead we’d see Nordstrom Rack, Banana Republic, Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, FedEx Office, T-Mobile, Starbucks, Bogart’s doughnut shop (‘sprinkled with a modern, “on-the-go” attitude’), a path to the four-diamond Marquette Hotel, and an ad for the IDS Center’s private gym. Here questions of value, what is good and what is beautiful, are answered in high resolution. And every move occurs under a flag that is also a declaration of sovereignty over the land where we sit, ‘the white sharp-pointed designs on the blue represent[ing] the many territories conquered’, as James Welch puts it in his novel Fools Crow.
The above scenario illustrates my approach to philosophy: in this time of crisis, contemporary ethics must come down from its abstractions and thought-experiments in order to address forms of life as they are actually lived in sites such as the IDS Center. Daily practices are always tied to divisions of labor across the globe (who sewed those chinos?) and within cities (who pulls espresso and sweeps donut crumbs?). Traditional case studies in ethics, such as the trolley problem, don’t speak to the end of the day, when some wait in the Minnesota cold to ride Metro Transit, some leave by skyway to a warm Volvo, and some enter through the atrium for a second shift cleaning windows, escalators, and offices. Avoiding philosophy’s traditional orientation to what is everlasting and unchanging, my research and publications speak to this level of everyday life.