Kingwell, Mark

Mark Kingwell, philosopher, writer, critic (b at Toronto 1 March 1963). Mark Kingwell was born in Toronto but grew up on air force bases across Canada, from Prince Edward Island to Manitoba, where he attended a Jesuit high school for boys. He completed a BA at the University of Toronto, and a M. Litt. in Philosophy and Literature at Edinburgh University. He then completed a Masters degree and PhD in Philosophy at Yale, before joining the PHILOSOPHY Department at University of Toronto.

Mark Kingwell is a public philosopher, addressing himself to a broad audience, from readers of scholarly journals to the National Post. His many academic and general publications, along with frequent media appearances, support his ongoing effort to engage the public, an undertaking that is consistent with the central themes of his work on citizenship and political participation.

Mark Kingwell's first book, A Civil Tongue (1995), which won the 1997 Spitz Prize for Political Theory, grew out of work he began at Yale. He advances here the thinking on the "talking cure" theory of societal justice. The theory proposes that justice can be achieved through a robust conversation among real citizens, in which the virtues of reason, tolerance, and civility are paramount.

In 1998, Mark Kingwell published the bestseller Better Living: In Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac. Kingwell examines happiness from a multitude of angles: philosophical, historical, chemical, cultural. In prose that is both scholarly and journalistic, Kingwell reports from subcultures such as motivational speakers, professional sports, and prescription drugs. He attempts to understand how we construct "happy" in the modern world. Kingwell ultimately points his readers away from hedonism towards "better living," which, although requiring more effort, is a surer path to happiness.

As a philosopher, Mark Kingwell holds that it is an extension of his teaching mission to engage with and participate in popular culture. He is a prolific writer, contributing editor, and critic for both mainstream and alternative media. His writing has appeared in sources as diverse as Harper's, This Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Canadian Art, and Auto Racing Weekly. While he has been criticized by some academics for this extensive "non-scholarly" work, Kingwell observes that he is following Socrates' example and that "It's always good to be in the company of Socrates."

Mark Kingwell's essays and columns have been published in three collections: Marginalia (1999); Practical Judgements: Essays in Culture, Politics, and Interpretation (2002) and Nothing for Granted: Tales of War, Philosophy and Why the Right Was Mostly Wrong (2005). These essays, often humorous and personal, cover a wide range of contemporary topics from politics, society, and popular culture. Throughout, Kingwell returns to his preoccupation with the role of citizens in creating a just and peaceful world.

Likewise, in his bestselling The World We Want: Restoring Citizenship in a Fractured Age (2000), his focus is on the potential for a global citizenry. Kingwell, an avid sports fan and fly fisherman, has also written a fishing memoir, titled Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life. Kingwell's historical and musing Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams was published in 2006.