Madison Public Philosophy was founded in the Fall of 2016 by Aaron Yarmel and Katie Petrik — two PhD students in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Having recently witnessed the development of a number of social problems that they believed could be ameliorated by more careful philosophical analysis, Aaron and Katie were motivated to make the tools of their discipline more accessible to members of their local community. Their plan involved two components: (1) teaching philosophy to children in community centers throughout the Madison area, and (2) presenting provoking dramatizations of famous philosophy thought experiments to the general public.
Aaron and Katie were soon joined by Johanna Dolle (a recent UW-Madison graduate) and a group of talented undergraduate philosophy majors who each brought crucial skills to the organization: Tanner Bowen, Emily Hamer, Kiyoko Reidy, and Dorothy Wu. The group of seven began teaching bi-weekly philosophy classes for elementary school students at the Dane County Salvation Army Community Center, and they held their first performance at the Arts + Literature Laboratory in May 2017.