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Apple has a full-time professional philosopher on staff

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

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.

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, 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.