NEWS

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May 29, 2009

Magazine uses Platonic lens to examine the everyday

At a launch party Thursday evening in the Smart Museum, three graduate students on the Committee of Social Thought unveiled the inaugural issue of a new interdisciplinary journal, The Point. Funded in part by Student Government’s Uncommon Fund, the editors intend for the magazine to be a departure from traditional academic journals, drawing from everyday life while still maintaining the academic rigor they claim is absent in much of today’s news and print media.

The editors have attracted intellectual luminaries such as Slavoj Zizek and Mark Lilla, alongside graduate students from the University and campuses across the country. The Point’s approach is modeled on that of ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, the editors said, because they arrived at larger questions and abstract ideas by examining everyday experiences.

“Implicit in [all of this] is a criticism of academic writing in general,” co-editor Jonny Thakkar said. “Academia can be so divorced from everyday life. What academics are doing in philosophy is fundamentally impoverished from not being drawn from everyday life. If you go back to the beginnings of philosophy, it is drawn from everyday life and that led to abstract philosophical thought. You rarely get now philosophers and literary people who are taking seriously experiences that we all have.”

While Thakkar maintained that the journal is not hostile to modern theorists, the current issue reflects the editors’ preference for a non-modern approach. Articles examine the relationship between phenomena familiar to most students, such as Facebook, and attempt to relate them to Plato and Ovid.

The publication’s title is a pun, referring to the Hyde Park landmark as well as what the editors feel modern academic thought lacks. “We are sort of saying that the point of learning is to illuminate your life and your world,” Thakkar said. “The point of being at the U of C is to understand yourself and the world better. There is a sort of potential at the U of C and we don’t actualize it. It is the responsibility of people to write these kind of essays and the idea is that we will provide a space for this and see how it bears on concrete experience.”

Though there are several similar publications on campus, such as the Midway Review, Thakkar said The Point fills a void they see in the intellectual discourse at the U of C and elsewhere. He said that by engaging common issues and life experiences and refraining from modern theory, which he called “jargon-filled,” he hopes the journal will attract a broader audience.

Though the journal launched with University funding, the editors hope the publication will be independent once it has expanded its current subscription base of 50. Copies will also available online at thepointmag.com, at 57th Street Books, the Seminary Co-op, and the Reynolds Club next week.