Apple has a full-time professional philosopher on staff

Posted:
in General Discussion
Philosopher and Apple Distinguished Senior Fellow Joshua Cohen joined the faculty of Apple University in 2011. Despite occasional outside lectures, though, his work is kept confidential, and Apple reportedly refuses permission for him to be interviewed.

Apple's philosopher, Joshua Cohen (source: Twitter)
Apple's philosopher, Joshua Cohen (source: Twitter)


Former political philosophy professor at Standard University, Joshua Cohen has been employed as a philosopher at Apple since 2011. He eventually went full-time at Apple University and has since been made a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Apple, yet his work is little known outside the company.

The Quartz business news website, which attempted to interview him, now claims that Apple has denied Cohen permission to speak to them and concludes that the company is against open discussion about philosophy. However, Quartz admits Cohen often lectures outside Apple, and also says he was hired in 2014 when his own LinkedIn profile says he began in 2011.

"Here's what we know [about Apple University]," reports Quartz . "The institution is highly secretive; a few employees spoke to the New York Times in 2014 on the condition of anonymity, and described learning how Apple products were comparable to Picasso's artwork in their "elegant simplicity."

Apple University is an in-house training program. It's common for corporations to have their own training but this one was set up in 2008 by Steve Jobs. AppleInsider reported on its launch that year and explained that it was likely to be a regular MBA program and based in part on the already well-known Pixar University

By 2011, it was an established part of Apple and AppleInsider reported on how it was staffed with senior academics such as former Dean of Yale Joel Podolny. In the same report, it was said that the aim of Apple University was to "internalize the thoughts of its visionary founder to prepare for the day when he's not around anymore."

Now it appears that alongside an educational training program, Apple University also has a philosophy department.

Philosopher Joshua Cohen was not authorized to talk to Quartz and he has not spoken directly to anywhere else about his day to day work in Apple. However, Quartz says that certain of his lectures outside Apple are related.

"For example, in 2016, he gave a public talk in Toronto on how pianist Glenn Gould's embrace of technology allowed him to create even more sublime music to share with a wider audience," says Quartz . "It was a version of a talk Cohen originally gave to Apple employees, according to a writer for the music website ludwig-van.com, who was in the audience."

Joshua Cohen lecturing on musician Glenn Gould's Variations in 2016. (Source: Robin Roger)
Joshua Cohen lecturing on musician Glenn Gould's Variations in 2016. (Source: Robin Roger)


That music site's 2016 report says more. "Cohen's task [at Apple University] is to identify the best things and explicate them," it says. "'Expose yourself to the best things humans have done and bring it into what you do,' was Jobs's advice."

Cohen is also editor of Boston Review, a political and literary title he's worked on since 1991. He also appears to be undertaking academic research as well as lecturing inside Apple. However, it's normal for any professor in any university to aim at being regularly published in his or her field.

Apple University remains a secretive part of Apple with no published details of its syllabus, or of which employees have attended it. However, while its post of full-time philosopher has not been publicized, it's also far from hidden and its holder has not been prevented from working outside Apple.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    Did you mean Stanford University (article currently states Standard University). 
    macplusplus
  • Reply 2 of 36
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    toysandmeDanManTXbigtdscornchipmike54
  • Reply 3 of 36
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,071member
    I think Apple, therefore I am Apple.
    cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 36
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,886member
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    Yeah, in most companies, it's the Sales team.
    toysandmestompybigtdscornchipentropysmike54
  • Reply 5 of 36
    78Bandit78Bandit Posts: 232member
    Mel Brooks called this one 40 years ago.

    SolitoysandmeDanManTXlostkiwi
  • Reply 6 of 36
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,131member
    The only downside to maintaining a “philosophy of Jobs” at Apple is that Jobs himself was inconsistent in many respects, as may we all be since new situations in life require new responses.
  • Reply 7 of 36
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,096member
    The only downside to maintaining a “philosophy of Jobs” at Apple is that Jobs himself was inconsistent in many respects, as may we all be since new situations in life require new responses.
    I’m betting betting most big companies have someone like him on staff.
    edited April 22
  • Reply 8 of 36
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 814member
    Wow I thought I was a cynic but your guys are so closed minded. You all forgot the first commandment of Jobs, "think" different. 
    repressthischasmminicoffeesteveau
  • Reply 9 of 36
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 253member
    This offers hope to young aspiring Philosophy students that their degree might one day lead to gainful employment.
    JWSCtoysandmeDanManTXstompyrepressthisentropyslostkiwiSpamSandwich
  • Reply 10 of 36
    thttht Posts: 3,212member
    Cool. Hopefully there is a professor of anthropology in their training program too.

    A lot of people in management positions do not have the most relevant education for their positions, ie, an education in managing people. 

    Schiller is a biologist in education, and his job is product marketing (product features) and developer relations. Cue is an EE and economist in training, and his job appears to be getting content deals. Lots of EEs, CSEs and MEs in VP positions who primarily deal with people now, not math and engineering. Heck, Jobs had no formal academic training, but he was a freak. 

    Any training VPs get in dealing with people is hugely important.
    chasm1st
  • Reply 11 of 36
    FolioFolio Posts: 557member
    This is sure to drive sales among the savants in France. But I'll be worried if Mr. Cook creates an entire Division of Philosophy.
    JWSC
  • Reply 12 of 36
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,832member
    MisterKit said:
    This offers hope to young aspiring Philosophy students that their degree might one day lead to gainful employment.
    What possible use could critical thinking, debate and logic have in the modern world?
    repressthisMisterKitspice-boycornchipIreneWfastasleeplostkiwimattinozbestkeptsecret
  • Reply 13 of 36
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 814member
    Folio said:
    This is sure to drive sales among the savants in France. But I'll be worried if Mr. Cook creates an entire Division of Philosophy.
    Please explain why you would be worried? 
  • Reply 14 of 36
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,314member
    mike1 said:
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    Yeah, in most companies, it's the Sales team.
    LoLLLL!!! No lie
    JWSC
  • Reply 15 of 36
    FolioFolio Posts: 557member
    Hi Spice Boy, Because a company should be goal-driven, and departments of philosophy most free in university environment. But, hey, their grads have some of the sharpest and flexible minds, would be great hires imo for Apple in machine learning, natural language, and er eventually consciousness.
    JWSC
  • Reply 16 of 36
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,711member
    crowley said:
    MisterKit said:
    This offers hope to young aspiring Philosophy students that their degree might one day lead to gainful employment.
    What possible use could critical thinking, debate and logic have in the modern world?
    Depends on whether it is for good or evil I guess.  All too often these days it seems to dive into the fetid swamp of equivalence.
    JWSC
  • Reply 17 of 36
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,545member
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    As opposed to you, the amateur bullshit artist?

    Have you met the man? Read his publishings? Attended any lectures? He appears to have had a long and successful career — are you a respected world-class professional in your field (hint: internet trolling and douchebaggery are not legit fields).

    I think it’s great that Apple has people on staff that encourage their engineers, executives, marketing people, et al to think deeper and to aim higher. One of the reasons Apple continues to sail so far ahead of rivals in so many areas (particularly innovation and industry foresight) is due to their ability to focus and visualize the bigger picture of what is really going on, and where it is heading. Being proactive instead of reactive.

    People who think liberal arts, creative thinking, and intellectual pursuits like philosophy are “professional bullshit” are the victims of tiny, poisoned, unimaginative minds.
    edited April 22 lostkiwibadmonk
  • Reply 18 of 36
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 339member
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    hehe - Mel Brooks
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 19 of 36
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 339member
    chasm said:
    A professional bullshit artist. 
    As opposed to you, the amateur bullshit artist?

    Have you met the man? Read his publishings? Attended any lectures? He appears to have had a long and successful career — are you a respected world-class professional in your field (hint: internet trolling and douchebaggery are not legit fields).

    I think it’s great that Apple has people on staff that encourage their engineers, executives, marketing people, et al to think deeper and to aim higher. One of the reasons Apple continues to sail so far ahead of rivals in so many areas (particularly innovation and industry foresight) is due to their ability to focus and visualize the bigger picture of what is really going on, and where it is heading. Being proactive instead of reactive.

    People who think liberal arts, creative thinking, and intellectual pursuits like philosophy are “professional bullshit” are the victims of tiny, poisoned, unimaginative minds.
    Have you seen "History of the World, Part 1"? Somebody kindly posted a clip near the top of the comments.
  • Reply 20 of 36
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 438member
    crowley said:
    MisterKit said:
    This offers hope to young aspiring Philosophy students that their degree might one day lead to gainful employment.
    What possible use could critical thinking, debate and logic have in the modern world?
    Hmmmm....  Critical thinking, logic, philosophy.  Oh!  I have a word: oxymoronic.
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