We understand "philosophy" as an intellectual activity which can crop up in any discipline. Philosophy is not confined to the academic discipline bearing that name, and is no more the property of philosophers than addition is the property of mathematicians. When an epidemiologist muses on whether a statistical analysis has a causal meaning, or a doctor seeks to balance the interests of the patient with their medical intuition, or a public health policy maker reflects on whether a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is justified - each is dealing with a philosophical problem. Usually such problems are settled fast and with reference to prior practice or general guidelines. However, sometimes they are particularly difficult, and give rise to action in the courts, political debate, and even public outrage.
In these cases, we believe it is useful to create space for specific discussion of the philosophical issues at stake – an endeavour that requires involvement from scholars engaged in philosophical thought from many perspectives, across disciplinary boundaries. The fundamental goal of the Centre is to create this collaborative space, all too often lacking in the heat of action.
We believe that contemporary philosophy is much more capable of urgency and concrete action than is often appreciated. When enacted in an organized and timely manner, philosophical analysis can resolve practical problems by explaining why they arise, and point out the optimal responses, even if the underlying philosophical issues are never going to be solved. For instance, philosophical analysis of the use of epidemiological evidence to prove specific causation in a negligence suit can explain why the usual legal tests do not work, can relate it to other theoretical issues in the area, and can point to coherent - and incoherent - responses. For instance, philosophical analysis of global COVID-19 policies can provide suggestions for equitable approaches to public health policy action and interrogate the moral implications of previous COVID-19 policies with the goal of suggesting interventions that place weight on relative contexts.
At the same time, this clarifying force only comes from time spent pondering over the deep and intractable issues that give rise the problems. Deep understanding of the consequences of different positions can only be arrived at with time, and the centre also seeks to provide a stable space and community for these longer-term inquiries. CPEMPH promotes both the abstract and practical sides of this coin, and emphasises the unity between them.