Are Celebrities Fit Subjects for Philosophy?

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Is it worthwhile, or even appropriate, to try to understand Lady Gaga through existentialism? Tufts philosophy professor Nancy Bauer had the question thrown at her after writing a New York Times piece in which she took a look at Lady Gaga and modern female sexuality through the lens of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Some readers found this odd, leading Bauer to write a followup: "What subjects are fit to be addressed in public by a philosopher?" she asks. "And about what, if anything, do philosophers have any special authority?"

Bauer says she's not trying to claim that "at the tender age of 24, a pop star should be seen as having a coherent philosophy that we should both take seriously and hold her to," though she does think it fair to point out that Gaga's "self -understanding in relation to feminism seems to be unstable." Rather, she writes:

I made the claims not because I wanted to philosophize about Lady Gaga but because I take her various remarks about feminism and her self-presentation to epitomize something that I did want to think about in philosophical terms:  the conditions under which young women today have to grapple with their own self-expression, behavior, and self-understanding, especially when it comes to the tricky concept of "power."

For this, Bauer argues, philosophy can be helpful. "Philosophers typically try to illuminate with a combination of argument and (re-)conceptualization."

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