The Homogeneity of Philosophy


In my own department, I tried to stimulate discussion about what could be done to increase diversity. The faculty and my fellow graduate students were, to their credit, perfectly happy to have more women and minorities in the department. In fact, many spoke openly about their desire to see a more diverse department. This desire, however, seemed to be a desire mostly for a cosmetic change in the look of the department. When it came to making changes that might bring about a much deeper sense of diversity—i.e., changes in the culture and intellectual environment—there was less accommodation. In attempts to open up a discussion about diversity, I found myself repeatedly confounded by ignorance and, at times, thinly veiled racism. To various faculty, I suggested the possibility of hiring someone who, say, specializes in Chinese philosophy or feminist philosophy or the philosophy of race. I complained about the Eurocentric nature of undergraduate and graduate curricula. Without exception, my comments and suggestions were met with the same rationalizations for why philosophy is the way it is and why it should remain that way. To paraphrase one member of my department, “This is the intellectual tradition we work in. Take it or leave it.”

Eugene Sun Park, a filmmaker, explains how the narrowness of what counts as acceptable philosophy in Western departments led him to leave the discipline. Read the rest here. (via Hippo Reads and Fritz J. McDonald)

UPDATE (8/15/14): Owen Flanagan (Duke) writes: “Duke has just inaugurated a Center for Comparative Philosophy, co-directed by David Wong and myself. We are partnering with the outstanding group of philosophers at City University of Hong Kong and the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy, CEACOP, directed by P.J. Ivanhoe.” More here.

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