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The article argues that there is a central problem with the concept of public philosophy, in that philosophy is partly defined by questioning reflection on its own sense, while public or popular culture characteristically relies unreflectively on its ultimate givens, and these are mutually exclusive modes of thought. The article proposes, however, that because of philosophy’s reflection on and potential questioning of its own sense it has a paradoxical structure of foundational and comprehensive conflict with itself and its own procedure, and that this self-divergence allows a genuinely philosophical role for public philosophy. In the public context, acknowledged failure to understand beyond a certain point makes room for a limitation of sense that incompletely but effectively substitutes for the properly philosophical explicit and questioning reflection on the nature of sense as such and on the possibility that even what we do understand about the relevant issues fails to have sense.


The copy of record is available from the publisher at Copyright © 2014 by the author. This article is an open access article originally published in Essays in Philosophy: A Biannual Journal and distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license.