More on the Homogeneity of Philosophy


Continuing on the theme of the homogeneity of philosophy:

I strongly believe that it is central to a thorough education in the human sciences that we be compelled to learn in detail about traditions that precisely and obstinately do not speak to us…. I want to move myself somewhere other than where I started out. I agree that it is most urgent for the ‘white men’ who dominate philosophy to take up this challenge and to belatedly acquire a proper humanistic education, but the cosmopolitanism to which I’ve already committed myself prohibits me from maintaining this expectation only vis-à-vis other ‘white men’….

Even my allies who are pushing for greater demographic inclusiveness in academic philosophy frequently express condescension toward the variety of scholarship that takes an interest in low-status expressions of culture such as the oral traditions of nomads… This is because they continue to share in the prejudicial view that philosophy concerns itself exclusively with high-status, rarefied expressions of human culture, so rarefied in fact that they are not really part of human culture at all, but rather exist on a trans-historical, immaterial plane of ideas. It is nothing more than the history and economics of institutions that gives certain expressions of ideas this rarefied appearance, and, I maintain, it is precisely the prejudicial attachment to these expressions that is the cause of philosophy’s current exclusive character.

That is from a recent post by Justin E.H. Smith (Université Paris Diderot) at his blog. Meanwhile, Tricycle Magazine has a long and fascinating interview with Evan Thompson (University of British Columbia) about Buddhist philosophy of mind and science. From the interview:

Buddhism has very sophisticated and technical traditions of philosophy, every bit as sophisticated and technical as Western philosophy. Here we enter the arena of concepts, analysis, abstraction, models, and arguments, all of which bring us closer to science. Buddhist philosophy is very concerned with analyzing cognition, concepts, and consciousness—the subject matter of cognitive science….

What I’d like to see is a collaborative effort to develop a much richer understanding of the human mind—a cognitive science of wisdom, for lack of a better term. For example, although self-knowledge is a topic of cognitive science research, it has yet to be informed by the kind of ethical and contemplative perspective that Buddhism upholds. We need to bring into cognitive science the recognition that the human mind can cultivate mature emotional and ethical capacities of benevolence along with cognitive capacities of deep insight and understanding. Right now cognitive science has a view of the mind that’s rather narrow, where the database for mental function is mostly college students. Also, informed by that kind of cognitive science endeavor, I’d like to see a much more critical perspective on what’s happening with the commodification of mindfulness and… social looping effects.

The rest of the interview is here.

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