End Philosophical Protectionism


Economists generally agree that protectionist policies (tariffs, subsidies, and other measures that shield domestic firms and laborers from foreign competition) are harmful to a nation’s overall economic well-being. Yet they continue to be implemented, in part because they sound good to an uninformed population susceptible to being swayed by nationalist rhetoric, and in part because of lobbying on the part of small relatively powerful groups who would benefit significantly from them. Those benefits come at a large cost, but that cost is spread out over many, many people, each of whom are made worse off individually, on average, only in very minor ways.

Though there are limits to the metaphor, consider the idea of philosophical protectionism: a set of practices and institutional arrangements, supported by a range of attitudes and beliefs, that have the effect of shielding Western philosophy from engagement with other philosophical traditions.

Unfamiliarity with and disdain for non-Western philosophy function as tariffs on it, making its entry into philosophy’s main marketplace of ideas more difficult, and discouraging its production by making it professionally riskier.

The professional cost of philosophical protectionism to a typical individual philosopher in the West may appear negligible. Sure, there may be insights on one’s research topics to be gleaned from non-Western traditions, but (a) the Western philosophical canon is sufficiently large that there is no obvious shortage of “domestic” material to work with; (b) there are very few professional opportunities individual philosophers will miss out on because they don’t engage with non-Western philosophy, and (c) frank admissions of ignorance of some of the most important philosophers in non-Western traditions do little to damage to the status of  individual Western philosophers in the eyes of their peers.

However, the costs of philosophical protectionism, in the aggregate, may be quite large. The lack of interest in non-Western philosophy: (a) discourages the very research, exposition, and argument that could show us just how much valuable and relevant material we’re currently ignorant of, opening up new questions and problems or reframing existing ones in productive ways; (b) limits the number and type of publications, speaking engagements, projects, and funding available to philosophers (on the assumption that the broader the field, the more of these things we’d likely have, for various reasons); and (c) makes philosophy (and philosophers) appear chauvinistic and culturally illiterate to others in a world (that on the long view is) increasingly comfortable with cultural diversity (which may have various bad effects for the status and future of the profession).

The possible opportunity costs of maintaining the status quo—especially the aggregate possible opportunity costs of doing so—are hard to see. Perhaps it would help to imagine what the Western philosophical landscape would be like today if, say, British philosophy had always received as little attention from Western philosophers as Indian philosophy actually has. If you can make sense of the ways in which philosophy overall would be poorer for that, you can make sense, at least in form, of how costly the shunning and ignorance of much of the rest of the world’s philosophical thinking could be.*

These thoughts were prompted by a very interesting interview with Anand Jayprakash Vaidya, professor of philosophy at San José State University and director of the school’s Center for Comparative Philosophy, at 3:AM Magazine. He has lots of thoughtful things to say, so if you don’t like my protectionism metaphor don’t let that discourage you from reading the interview.

Interviewer Richard Marshall asks Professor Vaidya about what he sees as “‘the next step’ for philosophy,” when “all philosophy will get used to taking good ideas from wherever they can be found rather than tying them to a powerful but restricted range of traditions.”

Here are some excerpts of Professor Vaidya’s reply to this question and some that follow:

Philosophy needs to go beyond the borders that have historically been imposed through the epistemic injustices, such as colonialism…

Should philosophy be allowed to persist on the basis of known epistemic injustices? I think not, there is room for correction, which will lead to better philosophy. We know what the consequences of colonialism are, on a variety of traditions. In the main, and at times, not all times, it has shielded Western philosophy from having to engage with the ideas that come from non-Western traditions. It is long overdue that we move toward wider engagement…

Let me also separate out two different threads of thought, so as to clarify things. There is a political point and a philosophical point. The political point is that we need to recognize that the history of philosophy is embedded in a situation where epistemic injustices were, and are, present. But when we recognize those injustices we don’t automatically, on my view, say all the ideas are good and worth pursuing. Rather, we need to recognize that moving forward on the basis of not giving others a chance in the philosophical game is the error, but once everyone is in the game, we simply just do philosophy and see what ideas win the day in terms of being pursued. There is a lot of bad analytic philosophy. And I think everyone who is serious about the discipline would agree with me on that. Furthermore, when I look at some of the papers written by 20th century Indian philosophers I really wonder why I was not introduced to this material in my analytical philosophy education.

My point is that we need to think about the conditions under which we ratify the direction we as philosophers collectively want to go, if there is such a joint body of individuals doing philosophy. And we cannot ratify this direction if the conditions under which we generate this ratification are exclusionary in a problematic sense. It seems clear that this is so. We have excluded perfectly legitimate work from the conversation and included a bunch of garbage for no good reason…

As a philosopher I seek a comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon, such as the self or consciousness. As a consequence, I think I need to look at what many different cultures and disciplines have said about the phenomenon. I use this as a base for generating and synthesizing a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon. In this sense, I think the methodology of philosophy I like might just be a combination of feminist standpoint epistemology unified with components of Jain philosophy, such as nayavada (epistemic stances). Progress in philosophy, at least some of the time, simply consists in the improvement of our understanding of something. This can be understood itself in different ways, such as through building better models. I think cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary philosophy just provides a good base of resources for building better models and having a better overall conversation.

The whole interview is here.

Nikki Rosato, “If I Paint Us (in gold) VI”

* (Who stands to benefit from philosophical protectionism? Those whose status, in their own eyes, or in the eyes of the profession or broader culture, is bound up with the status quo, that is, with preserving the unique importance of Western philosophy. One needn’t think that philosophers are largely or even explicitly concerned with their status (though some may be), or harbor especially chauvinistic views (though some do), to think that at some level such attitudes might have a motivational effect. And, in somewhat of a departure from the metaphor, one needn’t think the motivational effect is even all that strong. It may just function to make the relevant power holders less enthusiastic about, say, changing curricular requirements, or about hiring in Latin American philosophy instead of Kant, or about including non-Western perspectives at a conference or in a collected volume, and so on—things which together may have a large effect.)

 

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Heath White
Heath White
3 years ago

Just to follow up the metaphor:

Standard economic theory says that domestic producers are favored by protectionism, spreading a larger amount of pain over domestic consumers and foreign producers. Free trade harms domestic producers and helps foreign producers and domestic consumers.

So, to keep this metaphor going …. if we were more philosophically free-trade, philosophers qua producers of philosophy would suffer (more competition for good ideas) while everyone would have access to (be able to consume) better philosophy. Also, foreign (I guess, non-analytic? non-Western?) philosophers would have a better deal.

Since rewards in the discipline are largely tied to one’s philosophical production rather than one’s philosophical consumption, it’s easy to see where the “protectionist” impulse comes from. Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Heath White
3 years ago

With both classic economic production and philosophy, the situation is even a little more complicated – pure producers that are in pure competition with imported product are helped by tariffs and harmed by free trade; pure consumers are hurt by tariffs and helped by free trade. But in an economy, many companies and individuals have some amount of production and some amount of consumption that are both affected by tariffs and trade. (Think of an American train manufacturer that might be helped by tariffs on imported trains but hurt by tariffs on imported steel, and affected in unknown ways by the way tariffs affect domestic freight shipments that cause demand for trains.)

Similarly most philosophers are both producers and consumers of philosophy, and would benefit from greater access to “input” source material that they can use to produce more interesting arguments in their subfield, and be harmed by competition from other subfields that produce competing understandings of similar ideas.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
3 years ago

Ditto, but with [philosophical] credentialism and occupational licensure…Report

Edward Teach
Edward Teach
3 years ago

I feel it’s worth noting a similar and equally compelling metaphor could be made regarding (intellectual) ‘subsidies’ or favoritism which distort markets and are usually unsustainable, but which sound good to an uninformed populace, limiting the efficacy of the protectionism metaphor. Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
3 years ago

I understand that even completely non-historically-oriented philosophy is still rooted in larger historico-cultural assumptions about the nature of mind, person, society, and so on. However, would purely contemporary philosophy (that is, philosophy without an attempt to hisotricize itself in thinkers before the 20th century) fare better than philosophy whose identity is explicitly historically or culturally bound (Early Modern philosophy being obviously historically bound, Continental philosophy may be both historically and geographically bound).

I, for one, don’t care all that much about what Plato thought about the mind-brain relation or about whether Kant really does pre-figure cognitive psychology. I care about contemporary conversations about the mind-brain relation which, though it seems culturally loaded (in the thin sense of presupposing views about agency, rationality, and neural activity), seems less problematic to me than the worries being raised in this post.

In all seriousness (I promise that I am asking this question for my own sake and in the spirit of constructive dialogue): how naive is my assumption? Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
3 years ago

I don’t think it’s naive at all.

Sure, if we’re doing history of philosophy, then we should pay attention to philosophical traditions other than those in the western world.

But, if we’re considering philosophical problems, and trying to find best answers to them, which would be consistent with everyday experience, deep conceptual intuitions, science… then it seems that we’re not doing anything *that* culturally loaded. Yes, we might call a certain position Cartesian, or Kantian…but that kind of cursory mention doesn’t seem problematic, or culturally chauvinistic to me.

After all, contemporary Western philosophers happily ignore the vast majority of the history of Western philosophy in their work.Report

Ariel
Ariel
Reply to  krell_154
3 years ago

If you’re interested in the metaphysics of mind, I think Jonardon Ganeri’s The Self provides excellent reasons to believe that even ‘purely analytic’ debates in philosophy are deeply affected by cultural context and the history of ideas. He makes a good case that the history of phil of mind in the Western world deeply impacts not only which views we take to be correct, but also which options we think are available to us when discussing the relation between mental processes and the self. Indian philosophers (the topic of the text) have been arguing about the metaphysics of mind for millennia, in a well-organized tradition that have rise to much more nuanced debate on this topic than European philosophers achieved (mainly because this was not a core question in European philosophy in the way it was in India).

I tend to think this generalized to many debates in academic philosophy. There are traditions full of very smart people that have been discussing philosophical questions for thousands of years, and on some of those topics, it stands to reason that their debates would have become nuanced enough to open argumentative doors that have not been properly explored by other philosophical traditions. An ahistorical debate is well and good, but if the people having it have never been exposed to philosophy from other traditions than Western European philosophy, then it is likely that there are argumentative moves, as well as philosophical questions, that they won’t consider or take seriously.

Citing Kant or Descartes is not the paradigm case of being influenced by the tradition, imo. I think this influence manifests in the questions that we find interesting and worth discussing, in the kinds of answers that can be given to these questions, in the kinds of examples that we come up with, and in the views that we don’t find worthwhile to refute. Historical scholarship, and ESPECIALLY cross-cultural scholarship, can be a great antidote to this kind of tunnel vision. Report

Brandon Watson
3 years ago

If you can make sense of the ways in which philosophy overall would be poorer for that, you can make sense, at least in form, of how costly the shunning and ignorance of much of the rest of the world’s philosophical thinking could be.

I am a fan of, and have a specialization in, ‘British philosophy’, but as far as I can see, there is no definite sense in which philosophy overall would be poorer for having ignored British philosophy (even allowing for the fact that historically a considerable amount of British philosophy *has* been ignored and, yes, at times even shunned); it would just be different. The argument for paying attention to British philosophy lies in the specific details of British philosophy itself, not in some completely fictive counterfactual in which we all for some reason limp along in philosophy because we read Wolff instead of Hume, or Rosmini instead of Mill, or Leśniewski instead of Russell. Likewise, the argument for expanding interaction with other traditions is found in how interesting the philosophers are, the profundity of the problems, the ingenuity of the ideas. Never exploring other traditions, one would *lack* these riches, and that’s a reason for exploring them; but I’m not see the ground on which the lack can be treated as a *harm*, which is what the protectionism argument requires. (The argument carries over too uncritically the notion of a metaphorical ‘overall economic well-being’ of Western philosophy. There doesn’t seem to be anything definite that corresponds to such a thing.)Report

IGS
IGS
3 years ago

This metaphor seems to me almost entirely misguided. The classical argument against protectionism is based off allowing countries to specialize where they have a comparative advantage. In Ricardo’s classic formulation, England and Portugal are mutually benefited by specializing in cloth and wine, respectively. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage). To apply that logic to philosophy, you would have to argue that Americans and, say, Indians could mutually benefit if philosophers from those countries each specialized in some area of philosophy where that nationality has a comparative advantage. That seems silly to me. Other trade models (e.g. Heckscher-Ohlin or New Trade Theory) seem to me no more friendly to the metaphor.

The “protectionism” you describe here strikes me as protection of a paradigm. In Kuhn’s formulation, members of a discipline protect a paradigm *to allow for specialization,* under the idea that undermining influences from the outside prevent the stability necessary to specialize in a subfield. Thus, the protectionism you describe runs counter to the logic in your metaphor. Philosophers battle to keep out other traditions to allow specialization to continue and to battle for extremely scarce research support for that paradigm.

As far as I can tell, you are arguing here that there are benefits to cosmopolitanism, which is fine in its own right, but it has only a loose connection to arguments against economic protectionism. The metaphor is misleading.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Justin lists three costs of philosophical protectionism: “(a) discourages the very research, exposition, and argument that could show us just how much valuable and relevant material we’re currently ignorant of, opening up new questions and problems or reframing existing ones in productive ways; (b) limits the number and type of publications, speaking engagements, projects, and funding available to philosophers (on the assumption that the broader the field, the more of these things we’d likely have, for various reasons); and (c) makes philosophy (and philosophers) appear chauvinistic and culturally illiterate to others in a world (that on the long view is) increasingly comfortable with cultural diversity (which may have various bad effects for the status and future of the profession).”

These costs assume that there is something *philosophically* valuable in non-Western Philosophy. If there is nothing valuable in non-Western Philosophy, then no projects in such philosophy should be funded and no philosophical engagement with such philosophy should be promoted (such philosophy should be the object of study of the historian or anthropologist). And appearing culturally illiterate when there is nothing to be literate about is a problem not with those that appear culturally illiterate but with those culturally confused to whom one appears culturally illiterate. Finally, if there is nothing valuable in non-Western Philosophy, then nothing there would open up new questions or help reframe existing ones in productive ways.

The key question, then, is whether there is something *philosophically* valuable in non-Western Philosophy. Admittedly, I have had rather limited exposure to non-Western philosophy, but such exposure has given me the impression that there is very little of philosophical value there, and nothing remotely comparable to the philosophies of the great Western philosophers.

So, can readers of this blog list the unique valuable contributions of non-Western philosophy, and briefly mention how they (a) open up new questions or (b) reframe existing ones in productive ways, (c) answer existing questions in interesting ways, or (d) contribute to philosophical understanding in any way? (Note that I am asking for *unique* such contributions, by which I mean contributions of non-Western Philosophy that do not exist in Western Philosophy). Thanks in advance. Report

THD
THD
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

You want somebody to explain to you, in a comment on a blog post (and “briefly” at that), the unique valuable contributions of non-Western philosophy. Imagine that someone trained exclusively in Indian philosophy made this demand of you. “I haven’t read any Western philosophy, but in my view it is incomparably inferior to the great Indian philosophers. Prove that there is anything of unique philosophical value in the Western tradition. Thanks in advance.”

Leaving aside whether you would feel any obligation to meet this demand–how could you answer? Would you be able to give a brief explanation of, say, Kant’s categorical imperative, or Aristotle’s hylomorphism, or Hume’s fork, or Lewis’ modal realism, that would be comprehensible to a complete novice in Western philosophy–someone with no contextual framework in which to place these ideas, no understanding of the problems they were meant to solve or their place in the broader systems of their authors? Could your thumbnail sketch adequately convey the richness and philosophical value of these contributions? Would you be capable of showing your interlocutor what makes these ideas importantly different from any similar idea drawn from the entire 3000-year-old Indian philosophical tradition?

So a blog comment is probably not the venue to answer your “key question.” Fortunately, hundreds upon hundreds of professional philosophers trained in the West have spent careers studying the many traditions of non-Western philosophy, because they have found that these traditions offer much of philosophical value. Some of them have written introductory surveys and textbooks, in which the results of this research are presented. These might be a good place to look for your answer. But I think you have at any rate misplaced the burden of proof. Like people in Europe, people in East Asia and the Indian subcontinent and the Americas and the Middle East and Africa have spent millennia thinking, arguing, and writing about morality, psychology, the state, language, logic, epistemology, and the natural world. Is it really plausible to you that in thousands of years of continuous philosophical debate, nobody outside of Europe has arrived at anything you would recognize as philosophically valuable? Do you feel that you have anything resembling reasonable grounds for this assumption?Report

Naivesquirrel
Naivesquirrel
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I agree with THD. Desiderio, your reluctance to grant “*philosophical*” value to non-western thought (that has indeed been granted such value by others I the profession) indicates that you have a special (and apparently *correct*) definition of what counts as philosophically valuable, which I imagine is largely conceived according to standard western philosophy… And so it is possible your criteria may be limited from the start. Not saying non-western philosophy has nothing in common with western philosophy, but your orientation to “the philosophical” might be unnecessarily exclusive given your background, in which case your key question may be heavily loaded. There is, I think, an imperative on your end to either do more research in the field of non-western philosophy and/or at least specify your criteria (stating why you took certain works to lack philosophical value).Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  Naivesquirrel
3 years ago

THD, Naivesquirrel: I am replying to both of you in this single entry.

*I* couldn’t possibly meet a similar demand made from someone versed in Indian philosophy, because I know so little about Indian philosophy that I could not know which contributions from Western philosophers are *unique*, i.e. are not found already in indian philosophy. But someone who knew both Western and Indian philosophy might give an answer to the question (assuming, of course, that it is not the case that all Western Philosophy was already there in Indian philosophy… an assumption I am willing to risk…).

I wasn’t asking for in-depth explanation of those supposed unique contributions. What I have in mind is the following. Suppose Kripke were not a Western philosopher, then someone would answer my question simply by saying: “he clearly distinguished between necessity and a priority and gave interesting examples of necessary a posteriori truth and contingent a priori ones”, or “he pointed out serious problems with the descriptivist theory of names which opening up the development of causal theories of names”, etc. That kind of thing is all I was asking.

THD, you say that “hundreds upon hundreds of professional philosophers trained in the West have spent careers studying the many traditions of non-Western philosophy”. If so, doesn’t that cast doubt upon how widespread the philosophical protectionism is supposed to be?

Your last point, THD is whether I have any reasonable grounds for the assumption that there may be nothing of value in the philosophical thinking of non-Western traditions given that they have spent millennia discussing philosophical issues. I could easily question the accuracy of parts of your assertion, for instance that the native people of the Americas have engaged in philosophical discussion about psychology, logic, epistemology, language, the state, etc. for millennia, but I will grant you that for the sake of argument. My reply is that: (a) I was asking about *unique* contributions, i.e. contributions that are not already present in the Western tradition, not valuable contributions in general and (b) yes, I have some grounds to suspect there is not much like that, for otherwise we would already know it. Think about it this way: the Europeans have long recognised the valuable unique and original artistic contributions of non-Europeans and European artists have long benefitted, learnt and enriched their art from interactions with non-European art — there seems to be nothing like “art-protectionism”. Why think that European philosophers would be very distinct from their artistic counterparts? They might be, but I have no reasonable ground to make that assumption. So the burden of proof has not been misplaced: I want someone to mention those unique contributions. If someone shows me such contributions, I might decide to go and seriously study non-western philosophy. Otherwise I will let myself be guided by the impression I have already formed. I suppose this answers Navisquirrel’s point that it is imperative on my part to do more research in the field of non-western philosophy. Report

THD
THD
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Right. An answer of the type you suggest might go like this. Nagarjuna posed persuasive challenges to the coherence of the idea of svabhava (roughly, ‘essence’), thereby undermining the basis of the distinction between fundamental and derivative entities which undergirds the various Abhidharma typological schemata of experience, and refuting the possibility of motion as conceived by his predecessors.

But I’m assuming that this answer doesn’t make Nagarjuna’s value as a philosopher immediately transparent to you. Explaining further how his ideas are saliently different from those of Zeno, Sextus, or Hume would obviously violate your criterion of brevity. My point is that the form of your demand loads the deck against your potential interlocutors at the same time as it insults them. Do you expect to learn anything from this sort of exercise?

Productive discussion about this requires some background knowledge and goodwill. I don’t think you have enough of either: for instance, you appear to think I made a mistake in saying that there has been philosophical discussion in the Americas for millennia. Why didn’t you google this? We have philosophical texts from the Classical period of Mayan civilization (3rd-10th c. AD) and the Aztec Empire (14th-16th c. AD). There’s more philosophy extant in Classical Nahuatl than there is in Classical Greek.

Look, I don’t think you have a personal obligation to study non-Western philosophy. We can’t all know everything. I’m also not interested in debating Justin’s “protectionism” analogy–I think it’s misconceived. My point is just that before you suggest non-Western philosophy does not exist, research on non-Western philosophy should not be funded, and that people who disagree with you are “culturally confused,” you should consider reading a book, an SEP article, a Wikipedia page, or–at an absolute minimum–the interview you’re commenting on, any of which would have answered what you see as the “key question.”Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  THD
3 years ago

I think the one who does not have good will is you. Otherwise, why should you feel insulted by my questions? I said I had dlittle exposure to it but that my impression was that there is little of philosophical value there, and nothing remotely comparable to the philosophies of the great Western philosophers, and I asked about the unique contributions of non-Western philosophy: where is the insult?

I have read a few things about non-Western philosophy (that is why I have had some exposure to it), and I read the interview in question (although I was not commenting on the interview, as you affirm, but on the post that contained a mention of the interview). To see what I think about the interview, read my answer to Ethan below. Report

Ethan Mills
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Have you read Vaidya’s whole interview (the one quoted in the original post)? That’s one place to start. In the interview Vaidya also mentions several additional sources that will answer your questions.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  Ethan Mills
3 years ago

Hi Ethan,

The sources mentioned by Vaidya might help, but the Vaidya interview did not.

1. Vaydia mentions the “Hindu syllogism”, and Ritter’s criticism of it. Ritter’s criticism seems much to the point. And nothing Vaidya says shows that Ritter is wrong: (a) it is never clarified how the distinction between inference for oneself and inference for another shows Ritter is missing the point: one can introduce a redundant, superfluous piece of reasoning that confuses induction and deduction even if one’s piece of reasoning is an inference for another.

My guess is that the “Hindu syllogism” is better represented as an attempt to formalize abductive reasoning. But even as such it seems to be a rather rudimentary attempt (there might be more to the “Hindu syllogism” than is presented at the interview, but I don’t know whether that is the case – my claim is about ewhat is presented about the interview).

(Note that Vaidya makes a mistake when discussing Ritter. The “Hindu syllogism” uses the claim that wherever there is smoke, there is fire, but Vaidya goes on to explain and justify why the syllogism contains the claim that wherever there is fire, there is smoke).

Vaidya says: “And I see the attempt to push the Hindu-Syllogism out of the curriculum of critical thinking, based on Ritter’s observations, antithetical to critical thinking itself.” On the contrary, given how the Hindu syllogism was presented in the interview, excluding it from the curriculum of critical thinking is a deployment of good critical thinking.

2. Next Vaidya moves to discussing perception of absence. Vaidya says: “Some schools hold that the world contains absences in addition to presences. And discussions of the perception of absence are linked to ontological views. This is absent in contemporary analytic discussions.” Well, that is not because of absence in contemporary philosophy of discussion of the ontology of absences. There is a lot about that in the literature on negative facts. Perhaps what is absent from the contemporary discussion is the link between perception of absence and ontology of absence. But most of the problems about perception of objects are independent from the ontology of those objects, so why should that be different in the case of absences?

Then Vaidya says: “Why not take a look at the rich, long, and extensive debate over the perception of absence in Indian philosophy as a way of just getting up to speed on the issues? Don’t we already do that when we study other topics in Western philosophy. If I am writing on ethics, I would and should consult the history of ethics when developing my view”.

But we don’t look everywhere in the history of Western philosophy when we are studying topics in that tradition. It is good methodology to look at the places where one expects to get valuable insights (which does not mean that the places where one expects to find valuable insights are the only places where those evaluable insights can be found).

There is a reason why the canon is the canon it is, and this is not necessarily to do with trying to oppress or silence other views or authors.

3. Next Vaidya says: “Thus, when we look at the logical space of options in the current western debate we see that we have two options: perception and inference. On the perceptual view, we literally see absences. On the inferential view, we infer absences from the perception of something else that is present, as opposed to literally seeing them. However, in the classical Indian context, one of the schools, Bhaṭṭa-Mīmāṃsā, offers an alternative option, non-apprehension (anupalabadhi). Now it is hard to figure out exactly what kind of mental state non-apprehension (anupalabadhi) is, and whether or not there is anything that satisfies cognitively and neurologically the description of non-apprehension.”

Well, this does not support the claim that we can find insightful ideas in Indian philosophy of perception of absences.

Then Vaidya says: “But the reason I find turning to Indian philosophy interesting derives not just from the move space, but from the more inclusive conversation that one can generate”.

This is revealing. But if there is not much of value in non-Western philosophy, why have that more inclusive conversation?

4. After a long discussion of topics in contemporary analytical philosophy of perception we get the following: “My interest is in metaphysical disjunctivism, and how it is debated in analytic philosophy in relation to what I see being debated in classical Indian philosophy, especially between Nyāya and Buddhism. I am not sure that metaphysical disjunctivism is true. And I am quite impressed by Burge’s criticism of it. However, I think that the conversation can be massively improved by including the classical Indian debate into the conversation.”

And then the following: “I should start off by saying that the view I am going to sketch here has to be seen more as me being inspired by Nyāya as opposed to the letter and law of a specific Nyāya thinker or as a comment on the whole tradition.”

So, Ethan, I don’t think the interview contains answers to my questions.
Report

Anand Vaidya
Anand Vaidya
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Hi!! Please read Jaysankar Shaw, B. K. Matilal. They might help with your questions. Sorry I failed. I did try.

ThanksReport

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I think the problem with your reasoning is that the vast, vast majority of philosophy lacks philosophical value by your standards, which seem to require that the philosophy be likely to be true. All of the supposed “greats” of the western tradition fail this standard, with the exception of the work on formal logic. What philosophical value is there in Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, etc.? None of their interesting claims are likely to be true and all of their arguments likely fail and are less sophisticated than the versions offered by contemporary philosophers. Seems like you just aren’t a fan of the history of philosophy in general.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

I am a big fan of history of philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz are among my heroes, though much of what they say is not true, including many of the things I mention below:

Some of Descartes’ contributions, in no particular order (or in the particular order in which they come to my mind right now): 1. a powerful and interesting argument for substance dualism; 2. a new and interesting version of the ontological argument; 3. an interesting new conceptualization of the nature of matter with interesting implications like the non-existence of atoms and non-existence of empty space; 4. the cogito; 5. produced (without endorsing) powerful sceptical arguments; 6. developed an interesting and powerful rationalistic epistemology.

Some of Leibniz’s contributions (ditto about the order): 1. Pre-established harmony as a solution to the mind-body problem; 2. a different kind of idealistic philosophy; 3. very interesting theodicy; 4. penetrating criticism of mechanistic philosophy and interesting rehabilitation of substantial forms; 5. interesting and more plausible version of innatism; 6. developed and interesting and powerful rationalistic metaphysics; 7. Important critique of Locke’s philosophy. Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I meant those to be some of Descartes’ and Leibniz’s *valuable* philosophical contributions, in case that was not clear. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

None of those things strike me as being terribly valuable, and in particular I find much of Descartes’ arguments to be overrated and unsophisticated. (And I find your suggestion that any version of the ontological argument might be a serious intellectual contribution to be revealing.) But if those are the sorts of things you find valuable you will find many of them pre-empted by Indian philosophers by several centuries. Western philosophy was severely inhibited for a long time by Christian dogmatism.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

YAAGS, I am perplexed…

If you find much of Descartes’ arguments to be overrated and unsophisticated, what do you find of value in his philosophy? You suggested there was some value in it in your previous post…

And revealing of what is the fact that I find some versions of the ontological argument a serious intellectual contribution?

And if those things that you don’t find valuable are pre-empted by Indian philosophers by several centuries, what is there of value, in your view, in Indian philosophy?

Your assertion that Western philosophy was severely inhibited for a long time by Christian dogmatism is extremely questionable. But even if true, there is more to Western philosophy than whatever part of it was inhibited by Christian dogmatism. First, Western Philosophy pre-dates Christianism. Second, much, if not most, of Western Philosophy in the last 150 years has been carried out independently of Christian beliefs.

Finally, has much, if not most, of non-Western philosophy not being inhibited by some kind or another of non-Christian religious dogmatism? Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I’m not sure what gave you the impression that I thought these things have intellectual value. They clearly don’t. Philosophy mostly just consists of entertaining puzzles, much like sudoku. People read Descartes because they find it pleasurable, which is fine. People also find Indian philosophy interesting. Neither have made any real contributions to our understanding of the world. Einstein’s paper on the photoelectric effect probably has more intellectual value than the entirety of the western philosophical corpus.

And pretty much any version of the ontological argument is a joke because all the philosophical work is built into the relevant definitions of perfection, etc., which are obviously just stipulated to get the desired results.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Oh, sorry. Descartes *philosophical* work has no intellectual value. His work on physics and mathematics obviously does. Same goes for Leibniz. There cannot be even a shadow of a doubt that Leibniz would have produced more work of intellectual value if he had just stuck to mathematics and physics rather than wasting time on his ridiculous monadology.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I quite like the idea that philosophy consists of puzzles. But by solving those puzzles, or even thinking about them, you can know something about the world. That’s the difference between those puzzles and sudoku. But yes, of course, people read Descartes because they find it pleasurable. Why do you think people read or even do science? That’s fine too, of course… we all have to find a way to pass the time…

Yep, probably no version of the ontological argument works. That does not mean that none of them has any philosophical value.
Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

When you solve a sudoku puzzle you’ve found a solution to that puzzle. This is just as much a fact about the world as any mathematical proof. Similarly, when one wins a chess match one has shown that a certain set of moves will win. Truth is cheap. There are infinitely many truths that are intellectually worthless. Much the same is true of philosophical puzzles. There may be a fact of the matter about what the correct answer to skepticism is, but it doesn’t particularly matter or contribute to a real understanding of how the world works in the same way as physics or biology. It’ll probably just be some sort of sophisticated burden-of-proof shifting strategy. So I think the analogy between philosophy and sudoku is pretty airtight. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Replying to YAAGS’ comment on Einstein: I take it you’d disagree sharply with the following quote, then?

“I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.”

I imagine you can guess the author of the quote.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I used to like inspirational quotes like that before I became disillusioned. I am not some New Atheist science-worshipping outsider. I am a bitter philosophy PhD student who has realized he has wasted much of his adult life. If you could please offer me some instance where philosophy of physics has helped physicists discover a new particle, I would be overjoyed. Maybe that would show me a way to be useful. Alas, the physicists I know seem to get by perfectly well with “shut up and calculate”. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

I can’t manage a new particle, but one of the more celebrated results of quantum information theory – the CHSH inequality – has a philosopher (Abner Shimony) as one of its authors. It remains the standard form of Bell’s inequality, has been widely tested, and plays a central role in contemporary entanglement theory.

There are also more indirect links. I can’t claim anything remotely at Shimony’s level, but my work on Everett gets cited reasonably often in the quantum-cosmology and quantum-information literature, and I’ve had quite a few working physicists tell me that they’ve found my work on gravitational entropy and/or on black hole thermodynamics helpfully clarifying.

That said, I do think philosophy of physics doesn’t take seriously enough the importance of connecting and contributing to contemporary physics, and it’s something I’m increasingly trying to pay attention to in my professional activity. The issue is complex and doesn’t lend itself that well to discussion in the margins of a blog thread; drop me an email if you want to discuss offline. (I will respect anonymity.) Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Thanks, David. That does make me feel a bit better. Hopefully more people in the field will start to think like you!Report

Ethan Mills
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

To be clear, I never said you would agree with Vaidya’s answers, just that he provides some answers! I remain unclear about your criterion for deciding whether non-Western traditions are worthwhile — Why such a premium on utter uniqueness? How would you recognize such uniqueness if you saw it rather than simply declaring it non-philosphy or bad philosophy? Nonetheless, let me note two factual errors in your response to Vaidya.

In point 1, nobody in the Indian tradition thinks “wherever there’s fire, there’s smoke” is a legitimate pervasion (that is, a co-occurence of what is to be proved and the reason). The stock example for why this is the case, which Vaidya mentions, are red hot iron balls, which in some sense contain fire with no smoke. Also, the “Hindu syllogism” (not my preferred nomenclature, but whatever) has been studied for logicians outside of blog comments for hundreds of years, first in Asia and in the last 200 years in the West. Not that that alone makes it worth studying, of course, but might it be prudent to either investigate some of this vast material or to suspend judgment on the matter?

On point 3, you seem to have missed (honestly, I assume) an important “not just.” Vaidya’s point is that Indian philosophy is worth studying *both* due to its expansion of the move space *and* due to concerns about inclusion. Why can’t these be two independent reasons?

Lastly, I encourage everyone to read the post by Amy Olberding that Justin Weinberg links to later in the comments.Report

Agarwaen
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Both from Avicenna: the flying-man argument, and his apparent anticipation of the Barcan formula (I’m going by the account given in Timothy Williamson’s Modal Logic as Metaphysics).

These, I think, are clear examples of clever, interesting arguments about important bits of metaphysics. I say so because there seems to be some unclarity about what exactly you’re looking for: you equivocate between ‘valuable philosophical contributions’, and ‘uniquely valuable philosophical contributions’. If the first, then your argument is hopeless, since it’s about as clear as can be that there are philosophically valuable things to be found in non-Western philosophy; if the second, then you’ve removed substantial bits of Western philosophy itself from consideration. Either way, not an argument that ought to trouble the OP.Report

Christopher Britton
Christopher Britton
3 years ago

One thing I’m never quite sure of in these discussions is who exactly should be expected to familiarize themselves with non-western philosophical traditions. Is it merely that we ought to make room in the profession for those wishing to study philosophy from outside the traditional canon and accord it the same respect we do other philosophical research? Or is it that it should become part of the standard curriculum on which everyone in philosophy, whether future professional or not, is trained?

The former strikes me as something we should obviously do. The latter I’m not as sure on. Many philosophers in the western tradition are rarely, if ever taught, and even the heavyweights are often taught in a superficial manner (Leibniz and Spinoza got, at most, a week each when I was an undergrad). Expanding the standard curriculum to encompass more thinkers would likely exacerbate this. One possibility is simply giving students more choices in what sorts of philosophy they study, in effect abandoning the idea of a standard curriculum altogether. Though I’m sure that has difficulties as well.

It’s also not clear how much those already doing philosophy in a professional capacity can be expected to do. For philosophers working in many areas, even most of the philosophers in the western tradition are largely irrelevant. Doing philosophy of psychology myself, I care about what Aristotle thought regarding the mind about as much as physicists care about his impetus theory. There’s already more to read in any given subfield than anyone could possibly keep up with, and every paper read involves an opportunity cost.

I don’t ask all this because I’m hostile to the idea of allowing more non-western philosophy into classrooms, conferences, and the like. I more sincerely don’t understand what is being expected or what shape these reforms in the profession are supposed to take.Report

Ethan Mills
Reply to  Christopher Britton
3 years ago

As a specialist in Indian philosophy I would love to have room made for me, but I don’t really have any expectations of the discipline as a whole. I have suggested, however, that philosophers who are interested in making philosophy more cross-cultural can easily start by incorporating a few non-Western readings into introductory courses or by creating courses in World Philosophy. At least in North America, it’s extremely common for philosophers to teach things beyond their academic specializations or even things they never learned as undergrads. For instance, I teach Hellenistic philosophy in undergrad courses, which is something I’ve learned on my own. My education didn’t formally include Hellenistic philosophy, but it give me the tools I needed to learn about it (and yes, having a background in Plato and Aristotle helped, but that background itself can be learned as well). Now that I’m teaching World Philosophy, I’m branching out to learn more about other traditions: African, Native American, Islamic, Mesoamerican, etc. I think giving students the tools to learn ought to be one of the goals of philosophical education at all levels — let’s give up the pretense that we are imparting the entirety of philosophy or the entirety of one tradition to our students. As for the concern about figures like Spinoza and Leibniz, my sense is that they’re most often taught at the undergrad level in intermediate courses in early modern European philosophy, which wouldn’t be places in which one would incorporate non-Western material anyway (although one should in my opinion incorporate women philosophers in such courses). Since the comments section can only do so much, I wrote a post I wrote on the APA Blog several months ago about creating a World Philosophy course that also includes links to resources for teaching non-Western traditions. I seem to be unable to input the link directly, but the title of the post is “Provincializing Europe in a World Philosophy Course.”Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
3 years ago

(1) While I’m sympathetic, the protectionist metaphor is pretty poor. There is no formal policy in the field against non-western philosophy. The better metaphor is with oil and renewable energy. The free market has inertia in sticking to harmful practices that need to be corrected by subsidizing other competing products so they can get a foothold. Most philosophers ignore non-western philosophy and don’t hire those who study non-western philosophy because there is a dearth of the latter and they have strong incentives to stick to mainstream topics.

(2) I would submit that the distinction between Indian philosophy and European philosophy was fairly artificial to begin with. They belong to the same language family cover the same sorts of topics, and contain extremely similar schools of thought. Indian metaphysics also has materialists, dualists, nominalists, idealists, etc., and is concerned with the nature of causation and the problem of universals.Report

Grad Student4
Grad Student4
3 years ago

I enjoyed Christopher Britton’s earlier comment/questions.

I have a sincere question for anyone who may have a view on this. I wonder if the potential or need for interaction with non-Western perspectves depends entirely on area of study. For instance, take someone who does applied ethics. They have certain metaethical premises which, in their research, they have no interest to or room to interrogate. Metaethical propositions often, in applied ethics, must retain the status as a premise (which, of course, is usually defended by metaethicists elsewhere). But if one adopts a particular metaethical view, one which is perhaps typical of much Western philosophy but not of most non-Western philosophy, then I’m not sure how there can be potential for or a need for any ‘interaction.’ I’d be pleased if someone could illustrate to me how it could.

I don’t think this is just true for applied topics. Many fields have things they must adopt as methodological premises which are uniquely or largely ‘Western.’ For instance, much of Western philosophy largely ascribes to a certain logic, objectivity, or truth that some non-Western philosophies might dispute. It seems necessary to adopt these premises for any progress to be made.Report

Matt
3 years ago

I thought this post was going to be about the hiring practice of Canadian universities. I’m sort of sad that it isn’t. Report

Grad
Grad
3 years ago

If we want to talk about philosophical protectionism, we should probably also talk about how the prestige bias operates as a wall to keep people from non-privileged backgrounds, who cannot afford an ivory-league education, out of the profession because it keeps them from being perceived or taken as seriously on the market of ideas. That’s a form of protectionism too, which favors a certain power-elite. The market place of ideas is heavily distorted by unequal power relations.Report

Jon Light
Jon Light
3 years ago

One thought is that maybe there isn’t protectionism, but that Western philosophy is just more useful for our interests and projects; in other words, it’s already “won” in the marketplace of ideas. And so we needn’t think that other ideas are being perniciously excluded, so much as having less currency. I realize this isn’t au courant and that we’re now supposed to talk about a thousand flowers blooming and how nothing’s better than anything else anymore, but it just seems to me the “tariff” model is predicated on assumptions that may not be true (i.e., as a matter of empirical/metaphorical fact).Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Jon Light
3 years ago

Yes, the entire argument presupposes that one couldn’t have good reasons for thinking that Western philosophy is better than non-Western philosophy

Here’s one such argument: Western philosophy has, unlike other philosophical traditions, developed in close proximity, interaction and under influence of science; philosophy developed under the influence of science is better than philosophy which lacks that influence; hence, Western philosophy is better than other philosophical traditions.

Is that really that chauvinistic?Report

THD
THD
Reply to  krell_154
3 years ago

The first premise is false. Indian philosophy developed in tandem with astronomy and mathematics, and under the direct influence of a scientific linguistics leagues more sophisticated than anything available in the West until Western Indologists encountered Panini. Mesoamerican philosophy is centred on calendrical and astronomical theory informed by an advanced mathematical system.

It seems to me that a necessary condition for “having good reasons for thinking that Western philosophy is better than non-Western philosophy” is knowing the first thing about non-Western philosophy.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  THD
3 years ago

Ok.

How about this:

The influence of science, especially natural science, on philosophy is much greater in Wetsern philosophy than in other philosophical traditions. Hence, Western philosophy is better.

I don’t think that it’s that controversial that prime examples of science are the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology…

There was mathematics and astronomy in ancient Western philosophy also, but it is still widely held that science in the proper sense of the term began in the Modern Age, around the time of Galileo.Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  krell_154
3 years ago

Sorry krell, I replied to THD more or less at the same time as you did. I think your new argument is also good. Report

THD
THD
Reply to  krell_154
3 years ago

Well, you might think that physics, chemistry, and biology appear to you to be paradigmatic sciences precisely because they are the sciences that had most impact on philosophy in Europe between the Early Modern period and today. Do you have a non-circular reason for specifying that the relevant sciences for your argument are those and only those that have had strong influence on modern Western philosophy? And am I right in thinking that this argument would also dismiss all Western philosophy prior to Galileo?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  THD
3 years ago

THD, I don’t think those sciences are paradigmatic because they influenced philosophy. They are paradigmatic beacuse they are able to formulate fairly plausible explanations of a wide variety of phenomena (unlike say, social sciences, which are inferior to natural sciences in that regard), and they have had a great influence on the development of technology and society in general.Report

THD
THD
Reply to  THD
3 years ago

How do those criteria exclude mathematics or astronomy?Report

Desiderio Lopez Guante
Desiderio Lopez Guante
Reply to  THD
3 years ago

I think the basic idea behind krell_154 is right. Can I suggest a slight modification? How about the following:

1. Western philosophy has, unlike other philosophical traditions, developed in close proximity, interaction and under influence of the best and most sophisticated science humanity has produced.

2. Other things being equal, the better and the more sophisticated the science with whose interaction and influence a certain philosophy develops, the better the philosophy in question is.

3. Other things are equal.

4. Hence, Western philosophy is better than other philosophical traditions.
Report

THD
THD
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

The first premise is still false. The majority of the history of Western philosophy has taken place in a context of astronomy, medicine, mathematics, mechanical and civil engineering, linguistics, physics, etc., less sophisticated than what was available at the time in other cultures. Are you happy writing off Plato, Aristotle, the entire Medieval period?

The second premise is an unmotivated assertion. How would you know it is true without actually looking at traditions where philosophy didn’t develop in conjunction with science?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

Yes, that is a better formulation.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Desiderio Lopez Guante
3 years ago

This is true, but only insofar as science tends to obviate philosophy rather than vindicate it. Western philosophy has surrendered most of its interesting claims to science, and is successful now only insofar as it closely and passively interprets scientific theories. This is why the supposed “greats” of the western tradition aren’t really worth studying. If you want to learn something about human nature you should study neuroscience, not Hume. Frankly, I haven’t seen any convincing examples of philosophy helping science. As Feynman put it, philosophy of science is about as useful to science as ornithology is to birds. That you’ve invented a notion of “philosophical value” in order to evaluate philosophy is revealing. Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

What about Hacking’s book, The Logic of Statistical Inference and its positive influence on the biologist Anthony Edwards, and his book, Likelihood?

What about Elliott Sober’s book, Reconstructing the Past, and its positive influence on the systematics community in the 1990s?

Oh, and incidentally, if birds knew and could understand ornithology, don’t you think it would be helpful to them?Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

Chris, what new technologies or methods have those things produced? If we’re just talking about inspiration religion and art are probably more useful.Report

Cathy Legg
Cathy Legg
Reply to  Jon Light
3 years ago

In order to have “won”, Western Philosophy would have had to actually compete.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

“Oh, sorry. Descartes *philosophical* work has no intellectual value. His work on physics and mathematics obviously does. Same goes for Leibniz.”

= = =

People like you crack me up. Seriously. The complete lack of self-awareness is just amazing.

Well done.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Hi Dan! It’s only after working on philosophy for quite some time that I came to realize it is generally devoid of intellectual value, and it was a fairly depressing realization. Nor does philosophy have much value for students, who are generally only bs-ing you when they tell you how they enjoyed your course and how it changed their lives. A handful of courses aren’t going to improve anyone’s critical thinking skills. I’m afraid that it’s the poor saps who buy into their own propaganda that are lacking in self awareness. Philosophy is just a set of puzzles that people find interesting for different reasons. We need to let go of all of this self-important nonsense. Real self-awareness requires the painful recognition that one is insignificant. Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

I mean why do anything really? College, at least humanistically directed colleges, are wastes of time by your argument. Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

“‘Nor does philosophy have much value for students”

http://quillette.com/2018/01/11/benefits-philosophical-instruction/Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

YAAGS: the only person being self-important in this conversation is you, I’m afraid.

It’s that lack of self-awareness thing I mentioned earlier.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Dan, some dude upstream was arguing that all of non-western philosophy lacks the deep intellectual value of the Greats of the Western Tradition. My point was that this was quite silly, as philosophy hardly makes progress and concrete contributions to our understanding of the world in the way that the sciences do. Philosophy still at least has entertainment value. It’s fun and interesting for certain people at least. So if people find Indian philosophy interesting that’s reason enough to study it, not that we should stop doing philosophy. We should recognize that not all that much is at stake. It seems just as worthwhile to study people who are wrong if they are wrong in interesting ways, and in fact this is what we’re doing for the majority of the western canon. Though I suppose the fact that I reason in this way will all be some further sign that I lack self-awareness. 😉 Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

Dan, some dude upstream was arguing that all of non-western philosophy lacks the deep intellectual value of the Greats of the Western Tradition.

= = =

Yeah, I agree that’s nonsense. But I don’t agree with the rest. At all.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Do you have an argument? The sudoku analogy seems pretty airtight to me, except for some work in the philosophy of science that involves substantial amount of mathematics. David Wallace gave some good examples above. I think Woodward’s work also has some applications. We could do more good if we spent more time learning the necessary tools.

But I take it you side more with people like McGinn than Glymour. Can you give me an example of important traditional analytic philosophy? Gettierology is interesting, but to suggest that coming up with an analysis of knowledge (or why we can’t come up with such an analysis) is something of deep intellectual importance is just a bit silly. It’s just an interesting puzzle, and that’s fine. Same thing goes for most analytic metaphysics and even ethics. The suggestion that normative ethicists want to establish that some version of deontology or utilitarianism is correct once and for all so we can use it to guide policy is just silly. That’s why we have applied ethics as its own separate field. Normative ethicists just want to solve the sets of puzzles that bother them, same as metaphysicians. Hell, the correct moral theory may require something ridiculously unpalatable like anti-natalism, in which case everyone will no doubt shrug their shoulders and stop worrying about what is moral. Philosophers have already given up the claim that morality has some actual supernatural force to ensure that people get what they deserve. The only force morality has is from whether we choose to enforce it. And this is all assuming moral realism. But I would argue that normative ethics is still interesting even if some form of moral anti-realism is true. Even if Kantian deontology is false like every other moral theory it’s still an interesting puzzle as to whether it can escape certain objections to it, though it obviously isn’t important. Most of philosophy fits this mold. Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

So, the philosophy of Descartes and Leibniz is just “silly,” like everything else in armchair philosophy? It’s just a sudoku substitute. And we are to trust YAARG’s judgment on this over that of those who were deeply, persistently concerned with those questions, right? Including Descartes and Leibniz? And why are those questions so “silly”? Is it because their answers bake no bread, and fix no plumbing? Perhaps we should devote ourselves to plumbing. Then every minute of our work would be much more directly relevant to the desirable flow of matter in the real, natural world? That will at least be more serious than sudoku, more serious than the questions that puzzled Descartes and Leibniz, and the rest of that “silly” crowd. We should just take YAARG’s inability to find value as our true measure and guide?
— AARGH!Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

Philosophy has value insofar as it is interesting, not because it is practical. This is precisely why we shouldn’t be trying to exclude things that people find interesting because they don’t fit into some grand research program that gets ever closer to the truth. When people do this they are really just trying to exclude the work of others because they don’t find it interesting. (Or, as I suspect is often the case, because they don’t like being compared to a bunch of “heathens”.)

Philosophy is not as important as the things that allow us to manipulate the flow of matter in the real, natural world. This strikes me as being incredibly obvious. Would you seriously suggest that philosophy is even of comparable importance to the things that give us computers, airplanes, and vaccines? Really? Coming up with a reply to skepticism or an analysis of knowledge is on par with discovering the internal mechanisms of cells? It is enough that people find philosophical puzzles interesting. Unless you’re suggesting that it is important because people like it and find it interesting, which is fine. But the same argument could be made for sudoku and chess.Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

X “is IMPORTANT.” “X is not AS IMPORTANT as the things that allow us to manipulate the flow of matter.” (So philosophy is not as “important” as plumbing? What does that even mean? And what action, collective or individual, does it support?) “X is ON A PAR with discovering the internal mechanism of cells.” “THE SAME ARGUMENT could be made for sudoku….” Meaning? In what respect and to what extent the same? With what implications?

Philosophical talent and sophistication should at a minimum serve to prevent airy pontificating. Reminds me of the silly blather that Socrates punctured with gusto. An elementary critical reasoning course should put people on a better course early on, so they don’t “waste” six years.
Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

Are you saying that you don’t grasp the concept of relative importance, or are you saying that the notion of importance is empty? Or are you asking me for a definition of ‘importance’ before you accept any claims about what is important? An elementary critical thinking course should also acquaint one with the socratic fallacy. Let’s put it this way: philosophy should be ranked quite low on the list for funding, alongside literature, insofar as its primary worth is that people find it interesting and it has very few practical applications (even if we include the most indirect routes). Some elementary decision theory should help here. If you have only a billion dollars for funding, how would you split it up? How much should go to philosophy rather than physics or biology? Would you invest more in philosophy than engineering? After all, engineering includes plumbing, which you seem to have a rather bizarre disdain for (disdain that I imagine would disappear quite abruptly if your toilet were to cease functioning). If the choice is between plumbing and philosophy, I think you know what most people will pick. Are you really going to say that they are irrational? Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

“Let’s put it this way: philosophy should be ranked quite low on the list for funding, alongside literature.” Ok, this sort of claim of relative importance I can begin to understand, and does have implications. But who with any dose of common sense would dispute this (so long as we have a long and proper enough list, relative to which we can assess “quite low.”

“If the choice is between plumbing and philosophy, I think you know what most people will pick.” What is this “the choice”? We’re back to airy generalities with no clear meaning. OF COURSE, our physical needs have certain sorts of obvious priority. OF COURSE, and accordingly, medicine and engineering and agriculture may well deserve much higher funding priority (in certain circumstances of human development, such as ours). How do we get from that to philosophy being “silly” and “on a par” with sudoku? Silly blather again, ready for Socratic puncturing. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

These are judgments of relative importance. If someone is willing to pay less for something it generally means they value it less. You should be reading less Plato and more decision theory. I took myself to be saying something fairly straightforward and obvious: that philosophy just isn’t all that important. Moreover I have given a fairly clear measure of importance. You are the one who is committed to saying that philosophy is important in some airy sense that seemingly has nothing to do with our actual judgments of value. The burden of proof falls upon you to clarify this notion of importance and establish that philosophy has it.

And I only said that some bits of philosophy were silly, like Liebniz’ monadology or Descartes’ “but fortunately, God wouldn’t do that to us” response to skepticism. I am not alone in regarding these things as silly.

Finally, I said philosophy is on par with sudoku because both involve solutions to puzzles that have no real practical importance. If you don’t like that analogy you could liken philosophy to pure mathematics. Discovering odd properties of the primes is interesting, but the only reason why anyone regard it as important is that the discovery will likely have some applications to computing. Otherwise it is just something of a curiosity. Philosophy is much the same, except it obviously has vastly fewer applications than pure mathematics. Again, my whole point was that it is silly to try to exclude things people find interesting because it doesn’t fit into some grandiose research program if the only apparent value of that research program is that people find it interesting. This is why philosophy is disanalogous to medicine, and why calls to expand the canon are different in kind from a call for western medicine to embrace Eastern and African medicine. In particular, the value of philosophy getting to the truth is on par with the value of having diverse traditions. Since the primary value of philosophy is that it is interesting, it is only fair that we try to make it interesting to people other than white men. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Considering that the distinction between physics and philosophy wasn’t even made on Descartes’ or Leibniz’s time, this seems in danger of circularity.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

It seems a very easy distinction to make. Catersian coordinate system: math. Cartesian demon: philosophy. Calculus: math and physics. Monads: philosophy. To be sure, there wasn’t a distinction back then. But there is now. Does it have empirical implications? Can it produce new technologies? Then it isn’t philosophy. For if something had any applications outside of philosophical disputes then it must not be philosophy! It’s pathetic, but this is largely how the field now thinks of itself, and it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I used to think philosophy can help science, but in my 6 years of graduate work I’ve never found anything to support this (and have been laughed at by professors for suggesting it). I haven’t learned any useful skills. I should have spent this time learning math and programming. Instead I’ve spent it in worthless seminars where lazy professors assign a paper a day and then come in and ask us “well, what do you guys think?” I can argue about silly things just fine, but I’m under no delusion that I will ever make any real contributions to our understanding of the world. It’s my fault, really. I was an idealistic fool and have wasted years of my life on little more than word games.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

See my reply upthread.Report

Rick
Rick
3 years ago

I’m certainly not opposed to using non-Western philosophy in my research, but I’m a bit stuck on how to proceed. Are there any good English-language texts on (say) the contemporary Indian, Islamic, African, or Chinese philosophy of biology? Or general philosophy of science in those traditions? Classical stuff is cool and all but I don’t even mess around with Aristotle’s biology.

I tried to dig a bit into Islamic philosophy last year and most of what I found was either medieval or primarily theology. A tiny bit of poking around in Chinese philosophy showed similar results: big emphasis on history/classical stuff, little philosophy of science that wasn’t already engaged with Western stuff. (A friend of mine who was dual-trained in Western and Chinese in his undergraduate education basically agreed with my assessment, but he’s not an expert in the latter so he might be wrong.) I’m sharing this to emphasize that I’m not against trying to learn, here; I just don’t have enough time even to read all the Western philosophy that I would love to work on if I could.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
3 years ago

This metaphor doesn’t work.

Unfamiliarity with X and a dislike for X ≠ a tariff or protectionist policy on X. It’s rather a preference for Y over X.

There is something close to “free trade” in the consumption of philosophy–anyone can consume any philosophy they want, free of protectionism. (Publishing might a different story. But keep in mind that in certain places, such as political theory journals, there’s something of an advantage to doing non-Western theory.)

When you have free trade in X but no one consumes X and instead favors Y, that’s evidence A) either that X is inferior to Y, or B) more commonly that there’s no truth of the matter about which is better objectively, but instead that more people just happen to have a preference for Y.

Notice the regularity at which non-Western food outcompetes Western food. For example, you can’t seem to find a German restaurant in Mitte, Berlin, but you can find plenty of “Eastern” food.

I think Opeth is better than Justin Bieber, but I wouldn’t say that people’s preference for Bieber over Opeth means philistine Canadian pop music enjoys protectionist tariffs against Swedish progressive metal. Rather, I’d recognize that people just have a taste for Bieber rather than Opeth.

Maybe people in the philosophy profession have tried consuming non-Western philosophy, found it to be a relatively inferior product, and so stopped consuming it. (People who do non-Western will be quick to condemn them as racist or philistines, but of course they are just trying to win power and status for themselves when they do so.) Maybe the problem is that people doing non-Western phil suck at marketing it; they keep telling us we should consume more of it, but never give us convincing reasons why. Maybe non-Western phil objectively better but Westerners just have distaste for it. Maybe non-Western phil is just as good as Western, in which case there’s no particular reason to put in the effort to substitute what you know for a just as good equivalent. (Remember, the empirical studies found that expanding syllabi does not help attract majors.)

At any rate, there is no tariff and the tariff metaphor is misleading.

Most philosophers would do better if they spent their time reading things other than philosophy. E.g., political philosophers should learn basic political science and economics. Metaphysicians should learn physics. Ethicists should learn anthropology and moral psychology. Most historical philosophy–Western or Eastern–consists of bad arguments for silly positions, so the opportunity cost of reading more history of philosophy is high.Report

Matt
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 years ago

As Jason surely knows, tariffs are only one (and, at least before Trump’s recent buffoonery, not necessarily the most important) form of protectionist measure. Also significant are what are called “non-tariff barriers to trade”. These seem to me to be better candidates as parallels for the sort of “protectionism” claimed in the article. Here’s a nice example of a non-tariff barrier: for a long time, in Korea, all “foreign beef” had to be sold in “foreign beef stores” and couldn’t be sold in normal places for buying beef. Even after this was ruled against by the WTO, foreign beef would be labeled “foreign beef”, in very prominent marking, in the store, so as to distinguish it from good, all-Korean beef. Understandably, this tends to depress the sale of non-Korean beef in Korea, even though there’s usually no difference in quality, and Korean beef is more expensive. Another example of a non-tariff barrier is a quota for importation, or the sorts of quotas for “foreign content” on films and TV seen in many countries (such as France, Korea, China, etc.)

The comparison with these non-tariff barrier seems to me to be more plausible than with tariffs. When non-western philosophy is most pushed off to special journals and other departments, it’s labeled as “foreign” philosophy, in a way similar to “foreign beef” in Korea. When departments decide that they need only one (at most!) person working on these areas, we see something similar to a content quota. Other analogies are not hard to find. Now, of course, these comparisons are not perfect. There’s no legal obligation to do the things that philosophy departments do, unlike in the protectionism cases. But, that’s why they are analogies and not perfect copies.

Finally, once we see these analogies, then the preference argument given by Jason becomes at least significantly more problematic. French people consume a lot less US media than they might if the content quotas were not in place, so their revealed preference for French content is distorted by the non-tariff barriers. Something similar applies for the consumption of “foreign beef” in Korea. This just shows that revealed preferences are a very dubious guide to what preferences would be in different situations, but of course this same moral applies to philosophy.

Does this mean we should offer more, or even subsidize, non-western philosophy in the US now? I am at least not certain about that. But, I think there’s more to the protectionism analogy than many here have been willing to credit. Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

THanks, Matt, and fair enough. Maybe I’m just being pedantic. I see this primarily as a preference issue, but it’s also true that labeling non-western philosophy as such, while just calling western philosophy “philosophy”, has the effect you mentioned. Good point.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
3 years ago

P.S.

Rather than meta-arguments about why we should read X, a better tactic would be something like this:

“Western philosophers can’t seem to solve problem P. Well, here is work by non-Western philosophers that solves P.”

Do that, and people will go, “Oh, wow, I need to read more of that stuff.”Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

Philosophy has value insofar as it is interesting, not because it is practical. This is precisely why we shouldn’t be trying to exclude things that people find interesting because they don’t fit into some grand research program that gets ever closer to the truth.

= = =

I actually think this is absolutely right, so I don’t believe we have a disagreement.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

I can argue about silly things just fine, but I’m under no delusion that I will ever make any real contributions to our understanding of the world. It’s my fault, really. I was an idealistic fool and have wasted years of my life on little more than word games.

= = =

But then you say things like this and just sound like a crazy person.

You should stick with: “Philosophy has value insofar as it is interesting, not because it is practical.”Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

To clarify, I dont think philosophers are necessarily wasting their time. I just started off with greater ambitions of developing formal tools that might make concrete contributions to the sciences. This was delusional. I should have gone into computer science given my aims.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

Let’s put it this way: philosophy should be ranked quite low on the list for funding, alongside literature, insofar as its primary worth is that people find it interesting and it has very few practical applications (even if we include the most indirect routes)

= = =

Unfortunately, this doesn’t follow from anything you’ve said. People don’t just have material needs. Arts and letters — including philosophy — are absolutely essential, and fortunately, do not *require* the sorts of funding needed for medicine, engineering, etc.

Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

We do fund the humanities, they just get a lower priority. And let’s not be delusional here: most people would rather watch reality TV. The only argument I could see for why philosophy would be essential to a construction worker is that it might keep them from getting duped, politically. But I think this is also a bit delusional for the simple fact that political philosophy offers nothing definitive enough to do this. Conservatives will always have people like Nozick. Of course his system has massive holes in it, but so does Rawls’. In regard to politics, philosophy largely serves as a post hoc rationalization for one’s prephilosophical tribal affiliations. Here I suspect the problem is due to the fact that there is no objective moral or political order to the universe and that the main things that such theories have to go off of are intuitions, which–surprise, surprise–happen to be influenced by one’s tribal affiliations. What if the best philosophical arguments supported the emptiest forms of nihilism? What if the truth is terrible? Would it still be an essential and positive social good?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

“Most people would rather watch reality TV.”

= = =

So what? Most people would rather eat a Big Mac. That means that cuisine isn’t valuable? All this is, is an argument ad populum, which is a basic fallacy.

You don’t think philosophy is important? Don’t engage in it. You think you’ve been duped Sue your department and try to get your money back. (Good luck with that.)

No one has suggested that one should gut medical research in order to fund philosophy. And there is no chance that philosophy funding will ever jeopardize the funding of any science or medical or engineering program.

Seems to me like all you’re doing here is trolling. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Most people would almost certainly prefer fine cuisine over a big mac if given the choice, whereas if you gave most people the choice between watching a reality TV show and reading Descartes meditations, they’ll choose the former. Especially given that you can read Descartes’ meditations on the internet for free whenever you want. People’s value judgments are at the very least generally indicative of something’s being valuable. In fact, there’s pretty good reason to take it to be constitutive of something’s being valuable that it be valued. The alternative being the idea that value somehow inheres in things independently of people’s judgments, much like mass or charge, and that we can just directly grasp that this value interes in philosophy without further argument. If that’s your claim then it’s obviously pointless for me to argue with you about it. But, as a word of advice, I wouldn’t make the “I can just grasp that my research is intrinsically valuable” argument in a grant proposal.Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

What people generally do value is indicative of WHAT, exactly? People just as they are? No matter their talents and developed abilities? No matter if the appreciator is Descartes or Leibniz or Mill, or instead a (human) pig satisfied? Give me a break! I’m truly sorry about the WASTED six years!Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

The idea that our revealed judgments of value are constitutive of value is pretty common in economics and consequentialist ethics. If you are right and I am an idiot for suggesting it then a large swath of contemporary ethics is also an idiotic waste of time by your lights, and you are even more dismissive of philosophy than I am.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

Just to return to the original analogy, chess is also a highly intellectual pursuit. So even if we restrict ourselves to the preferences of intellectuals, this still doesn’t show that philosophy is any more valuable than chess. Even among intellectuals, preferences differ. I know several physicists who have read philosophy and found it to be silly precisely because it doesn’t have empirical implications. These are extremely well-read people, they just take literature to be far more valuable. I don’t think there’s anything intellectually deficient about these people. They’re brilliant. A large part of the reason is that much of philosophy fundamentally rests on intuitions that these people simply don’t share. Some people prefer philosophy to literature and some people prefer chess to both. So why is philosophy more important than chess? The only convincing answer I’ve seen is that, unlike chess, it can help with other things we find valuable. David Wallace gave some examples above. But you and Dan seem to be saying that it is intrinsically more valuable than chess for some other reason.

Someone else offered that it is valuable because it can help people do better on the LSAT. This seems like a good defense of teaching philosophy, but not for philosophical research. (In fact, if I recall correctly from what he has said elsewhere, Dan thinks philosophy is only good for pedagogical purposes and that the field’s focus on research is misplaced. So I find it a bit odd that he would be a defender of a specific research program as being important. To this I would say: if much of philosophical research is misguided, this seems to suggest that we are bad at critical thinking and shouldn’t be trusted to teach critical thinking to students.)Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

“Someone else offered that it is valuable because it can help people do better on the LSAT.”

If you’re referring to the article I linked above, that’s not what the article argues. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

Ah, you’re right. Though the article seems to make a better case for philosophy being taught in grade school rather than supporting its importance as a research program in universities. Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

“chess is also a highly intellectual pursuit. So even if we restrict ourselves to the preferences of intellectuals, this still doesn’t show that philosophy is any more valuable than chess. Even among intellectuals, preferences differ.” Is this supposed to refute, or even oppose, anything upthread? NO-one suggested that. And how silly that suggestion would be. Psychology is not the most valuable science simply because it always gets more enrollments. And anyhow what does this “valuable” mean when applied to a whole area of endeavor? Yes, “degree of interest and appreciation that would be aroused in those capable of understanding it and participating in it” is one factor. But is it the only factor? We’d have to consider what motivates the interest and appreciation. Is it pure cupidity and getting ahead in the rat race? Well, that area might indeed have high value of that sort. But those devoted to a discipline and to exposing students to the issues in that discipline are not just interested in that (as opposed to many parents paying the bills). And we might quite properly think that chess and computer games are great in their place, but that there’s more to intellectual life and understanding than playing invented games. In the end, it might be that either you see it or you don’t, and there are no glasses or therapy for the blind. Question begging? Yes, of course, but some questions need to be begged. Alternatively, we could say that we can agree to disagree, and to each his own. Let those who want to spend their lives on computer games or chess do so. They will have their own reward and we will pass no judgment on that. (Next opioids?) One thing that still seems ridiculous is that what most matters, overwhelming everything else, is prediction and control over the flow of matter (as with plumbing).Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

I imagine a large part of our disagreement is that I think the best philosophical positions are generally anti-realist or lightweight-realist and that philosophy is structurally and methodologically incapable of establishing much of interest because its disputes boil down to tradeoffs among differing intuitions, as evidenced by the persisting disagreement within the field over millenia. Once you realize this, philosophy seems to kinda lose its teeth. My reaction to each dispute is just “meh, it will never be resolved because each disputant gives weight to different intuitions”. One possible reward to studying philosophy is the realization that life is meaningless and that there is no objective morality worth troubling yourself over. The people who will reach this conclusion are the people who start off as being intuitively inclined to it in the first place. If you are a moral realist, then the reality is likely to be something elegant like hedonistic act-utilitarianism, which can explain away most of the contrary intuitions (as every moral theory is forced to do). Of course, I agree that this would be the morality of pigs. But if you’re a realist then all you really have to go off of is abduction, and hedonistic act utilitarianism is the clear winner. Of course, Kantians will insist that morality must be derived from rationality, and they end up stamping their feet in regard to what counts as rationality. Or one could be a sentimentalist and hold that you don’t understand morality unless you’re motivated by it. This, of course, faces it’s own issues.

The effect being that you’re not much better off than you were prior to philosophical reflection except for an increased aptitude for sophisticated semantic considerations. People find a way to defend their intuitions. No one can authoritatively claim that philosophy has lead them to the moral truth because there are too many viable competitors. What is left is a game of trying to poke holes in the theories of your competitors, even though you know you’ll never really be able to convince them to change their minds.

If this is not enough to convince you that it is similar to a game, consider that if you’re a realist there’s no guarantee that you’ll like the objective moral facts. Maybe the universe really doesn’t see a difference between the happiness of a pig in mud and a philosopher in an argument. Fortunately, we are free to disregard morality and construct an alternative system that does not align with the Form of the Good, given that the latter has no physical influence over us.Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  Just Saying
3 years ago

A lot of very fine philosophers (dead or alive) are anti-realists (of various stripes, or skeptics, or relativists). Turns out you’re very philosophical (despite yourself?), so please don’t give up.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  YAAGS
3 years ago

YAAGS wrote:

Most people would almost certainly prefer fine cuisine over a big mac

= = =

I am almost entirely certain this is untrue. Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Well, I suppose it’s an empirical matter. But I think most people can recognize that a prime cut of steak is better than a big mac, regardless of how deep in Idaho or Wisconsin they are. I think it becomes especially obvious if we count some BBQ (as we clearly should) as fine cuisine. Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
3 years ago

I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve been thinking about this post and feel I have to add this. I find this post and those like it a little annoying even though I tend to agree with them. The reason is that practically none of these “let’s open the canon” posts tell us much about how to do that. I think a lot of people are in principle open to doing this but don’t know how and honestly don’t have the time or resources to figure it out. If you’re a graduate student how do you find a department where you can study a non-canonical figure? How do you do that without committing career suicide? Or if you’re a professor how do you add say Zhuangzi or Confucius to an ethics or intro syllabus? I’d really like to work in more non-western philosophy to my courses, and not just for diversity reasons. From my amateur’s knowledge it seems there are interesting arguments for particularism in the former and an interesting form of virtue in the latter. But the thing is that I am an amateur. I’m no expert on these philosophers and I worry about doing it wrong. I’d love to find a post where someone lays out who and what to we ought to add to our syllabi and how to teach them, or better yet a whole blog devoted to that. Resources like that would be extremely valuable especially since most of us can’t just reach out and ask a friend about how to teach non-canonical figures in the same way we can get pointers on say Leibniz or Heidegger if we find ourselves needing to teach them.Report

Malcolm Keating
Malcolm Keating
Reply to  Sam Duncan
3 years ago

Two resources for starters:
The Deviant Philosopher, http://thedeviantphilosopher.org/About
Society for Teaching Comparative Philosophy, http://stcp.weebly.com/

You can also visit the APA website for syllabi, as well as blogs like The Indian Philosophy Blog and Warp, Weft and Way. Some of the philosophers represented on those blogs have personal websites with teaching materials. If you want a list of graduate programs, the IPB has some rankings for Indian phil and WWW discusses it for Chinese philosophy.Report

Malcolm Keating
Malcolm Keating
Reply to  Malcolm Keating
3 years ago

*correction* the IPB has a list, not rankings per se. I think that’s important to note. Also, I speak only for myself, but I surmise that, like me, many of us who work in this area are open to helping point people in the right direction for teaching figures outside of the so-called “Western” canon.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Malcolm Keating
3 years ago

Cool, thanks!Report