There’s an App for That

By Emily Gold Boutilier

When word spread that—the website for those pondering the meaning of life and other such matters—had gone mobile, media blogs had fun with the news. “What’s the meaning of life? There’s an app for that,” declared The New York Times Arts Beat blog in May. “An app for big thoughts,” announced the Boston Globe Brainiac blog. “Rational thought on a mobile device feels ... unexpected,” wrote Elizabeth Minkel ’07 on The New Yorker’s The Book Bench blog.

“People don’t stop thinking when they leave their computer terminals,” says Professor of Philosophy Alexander George, who created the site in 2005, long before app was part of the lexicon. The new, free application, called AskPhil, allows users of mobile devices such as the iPhone to search and read the nearly 3,000 questions that readers have posted to Ask­, as well as responses from the more than 30 professional philosophers who tackle the queries. (One recent question: “Is there anything of value philosophically in the contentious politics of the day?”)

“This is Amherst’s first app,” George says, “and the fact that it’s a philosophy app is quite appropriate for a liberal
arts college.”