• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 8 comments on Teaching Philosophy to the Homeless

  1. Really interesting piece that reminds readers of the subtle and less subtle ways we all, from various races, sometimes de-humanize “the Other.” Impressive that this alum isn’t deterred and continues to try to foster conversations that advance both “book” and “life” learning.

  2. What is the purpose of teaching homeless ancient philosophy? That’s so petty bourgeoisie and out of touch with the harsh reality of America – the homeless people need a home, not Plato or Aristotle, whose nice thought is not going to help them. (by the way the US government also failed to help them too so you now can feel better)

    1. How do you know what another person need? Maybe some of them welcome a break in their daily struggles, as pointe out in the article. Maybe they want to do something that does not define their life only in terms of homelessness.

    2. I lost my job two years ago and was homeless for six months. It is very sad people claim to want to do things to help homeless people. You are not doing anything but helping yourself feel better about yourself. Unless you are serving food at your philosophy class no one cares. Most able body homeless women want a job that allows them to pay their rent and bills.

  3. Super article & extremely inspiring work being done here by this young, talented smart woman. If only you critic’s would contribute rather than criticize maybe we all could better combat this issue. Keep up the good humanitarian work Clarinda and let’s let the world know what this woman is doing. This goes far beyond Aristotle & Plato, just expand your mind a bit!

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Rich. While I have never been homeless myself, and only have minimal experience volunteering at a women’s homeless shelter in Washington D.C., I can say that some women really do want thoughtful and positive interactions with others. Talking about our relationship with the world and others on a deeper level is an excellent avenue for that. I get really annoyed when people claim philosophy has no place in serving the needs of the poor. Such claims are, ironically, grounded in “bourgeois” misconceptions about the poor and human nature in general: to assume that critical thinking skills aren’t vital for the poor or homeless is to assume that their mental and emotional needs are inherently separate from physical needs (food, shelter, etc.) and, by extension, aren’t as important. This could not be any farther from the truth. Rather than criticize Blais for creating this project in order to supposedly wax her own ego, I commend her for going far outside her comfort zone and taking a vested interest in the lives and minds of women whom society often ignores, shuns, and oppresses on a constant basis. I hope she and her colleagues from other universities continue getting the support they need, and I hope that women at many shelters in the Boston area continue getting something stimulating, valuable, and even comforting out of this.

  5. I was just thinking today that many of the homeless are more equipped to teach the course. I also thought that even though it sounds Insane, a great number of philosophers were in fact homeless or at least shared more characteristics than they would with a so called average citizen. I mean, who better to hold up the mirror to society?

  6. Flagstaff, AZ 8/31/2022


    My address is to a homeless shelter here in Flagstaff.- I had a job that gave me a Code of Ethics Test and did not pass. Why? we forget this Humanity capability to think rationally to the point of being confused about right from wrong.- ( I heard Dr Peterson say this..) and it is true. We begin to have problems then with following the rules properly, our ability to think logically, remembering that we are altruistic by nature and how to manage this quality . . problems with authority figures. The shelter spends an average of more than 50% of time and resources reinforcing the simple rules for the greater good. When I realized that I just needed to remember my Philosophy lectures dag deep and discover the treasures that we can trade for our rumination and the harmful effects of singing or perhaps we do not know where did we get that harmful idea, we just began singing it , ponder it and trusted it to be truth. Does your program include the different ideology caused by Philosophers and- analysis of their cons and pros?
    Looking forward to your response and perhaps guide or how to build a Philosophy Program for the homeless population of Flagstaff?

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