Philosophy: Splendidly Polyphonic, Historically Limited, Problematically Magical


In the latest interview at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?, Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) asks Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU) how he sees the future of philosophy. Appiah answers:

I’m not much of a prophet and I feel very stuck in the present of the subject, which strikes me as splendidly more polyphonic than it was when I started out.

The interview provides a lot of information about Appiah’s life, from visits from heads of state when he was hospitalized as a child, to his education and work, all the way up through upcoming lectures to be broadcast on the BBC this coming fall.

Along the way he shares his views on certain aspects of the profession, including why philosophy is more white and more male than other disciplines:

 [O]ne reason for the racial disparities is historical: the opportunity to enter the field was only made widely available some forty or fifty years ago, and it was made available as opportunities expanded in many fields that are much more lucrative (though not, I should say, therefore more rewarding). Naturally, reasonably ambitious African-Americans didn’t start out by colonizing philosophy. For the same reason, it’s not a big subject for people who are first generation college goers in their families. I think there are also issues to do with the availability of role models and mentors. And I am persuaded that the way many people think of skill in the subject, as a sort of magical something that one either has or doesn’t have, discourages women more than men. Since this magical picture is just plain wrong, it would be good to discourage it as an untruth.

The whole interview, interesting throughout, is here.

Appiah

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