Pivotal Western philosophers no longer welcomed by students at this British university because of their color.

Plato? Descartes? Kant? Pivotal figures, all, who irreversibly changed the direction of what Richard Rorty called the conversation of the West. But to the up-and-coming generation of students, there’s a problem.

Weren’t they all white males?

With Plato it might be hard to tell. He was whatever ethnicity the ancient Greeks who lived on the Mediterranean Sea could be classified as, assuming it different, and he might have one redeeming feature among today’s students. He was gay.

Read all about it here.

I find it interesting that the “prestigious British university” is not named until very late in the article. Presumably the author didn’t want to embarrass the institution too badly.

This is coming primarily from students, and one has to wonder what the dickens is going on at the secondary level these days. (Although we see similar stuff occurring in U.S. institutions.)

The motivation seems to be an effort to “decolonize” Western philosophy: to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism.” I have to place this in the same category with those “scholars” who are attacking the very idea of “whiteness.” I have no idea what they mean. Somehow, I don’t think it’s my ignorance at fault.

To their credit, there is pushback from the faculty, and from British philosophers worth listening to. Roger Scruton, for example, said, “You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it, and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy …  If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.”

So would I, including what a phrase like white philosophy could conceivably refer to that is specific enough to give it content. Need I observe that Western nations and peoples, however we classify their ethnicity, have produced many different philosophies and kinds of philosophy?

Professional philosophers should resist this nonsense, although the generational tide being what it is, and the phenomenon being international, and not limited to the U.S. or probably even to the Anglophone world, I imagine resisting the increasingly irrational demands of Generation Snowflake will be easier said than done. With “populism” on the rise within the larger culture as a countervailing force, it is hard not to envision major conflicts ahead, especially if those of us who defend essentially traditional approaches to doing philosophy and teaching it decide we are going to stand our ground, and that Generation Snowflake’s anxieties about “whiteness” and other irrational feelings are their problem, and not ours.

About Steven Yates

I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia and teach Critical Thinking (mostly in English) at Universidad Nacionale Andrés Bello in Santiago, Chile. I moved here in 2012 from South Carolina. My most recent book is entitled Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011). I am the author of an earlier book, around two dozen articles & reviews, & still more articles on commentary sites on the Web. I live in Santiago with my wife Gisela & two spoiled cats, Bo & Princesa.
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1 Response to Pivotal Western philosophers no longer welcomed by students at this British university because of their color.

  1. lecox says:

    I didn’t go to college. So I didn’t study philosophy or history in a university setting. In high school doing my own research I studied the history of India, read Plato’s Republic and Bellamy’s Looking Backward, a biography of T.E. Lawrence, and that’s about it. Later I read Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, then got into Scientology and read everything Hubbard wrote, listened to hours of his lectures, and nibbled around the edges of various other subjects. My professional expertise is Electronics.
    I must say I don’t exactly feel mentally stunted because I failed to study Kant or Shopenhauer. My dad studied philosophy but never talked about it. I don’t think he understood it that well. So, I have no idea what a college-level student of philosophy gets out of studying the subject.
    These students who don’t want to study the white Western philosophers were all in the School of Oriental and African Studies. They are probably a bunch of Oriental and African kids (though I have no idea) who would just like to find out in college about their own cultural legacies instead of those of the culture that is hosting them while they go to school.
    That said, if someone is going to school to become an expert in the subject of philosophy, one should study all the philosophers one can get one’s hands on. The writings of the Western ones are more available, but you’ve got to thrown in some of the interpreters of Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Laozi, and probably several others. However, if one is going to school to become an expert in philosophizing, and different approach might be in order.
    As Hubbard used to say, if you want to be a writer, then start writing!
    Hubbard didn’t go to college, either, at least not to the point of ever earning a degree. He was too footloose and fancy free. There were too many things he wanted to know about and experience that weren’t available in college.
    So when I hear a question about what colleges, or schools in general, should be teaching (once kids have learned how to read, write and use a calculator) that is a big subject from my viewpoint. Hubbard – and actually many others – show us living (or once living) proof that you don’t have to go to college to do what you want to in life or learn a whole lot of interesting stuff. So, why do people go to college? Are they just too lazy to work for a living and study on their own at the same time? Are they being groomed for senior positions in business or government, so have to be able to put on airs of learnedness? Do they want to wedge their way into the Technocracy for basically middle-class reasons, and are simply willing to pay to learn a certain technical subject and get a degree that will get them a job? Or are they there for the purpose of becoming extremely wise individuals, regardless of what they end up doing in life? If they are there for the last reason, they may be sadly misled. Colleges serve mostly the other purposes listed, so who cares exactly what they offer in their general Humanities classes? I certainly don’t.
    Coming into view is, perhaps, the end of an age. What that age needed, basically, was a lot of well-educated people to do a lot of very technical things. We all saw it as a step up for Humanity. But the next age, per reports, is now arriving. In the context of Galactic civilization, we find ourselves to be primitives all over again. Not because we never knew, but because we were isolated here on Earth and forced to forget. We have, in secret, made a start in the direction of that new age. It is almost time for that work to begin to come out in the open. And we will have to decide as a planet – not as an oligarchy – what we want to do about the fact that ET has arrived and is beginning to get impatient with us. There are many “solutions” currently on the table. A philosopher’s dream, for those willing to confront the situation. And an oligarch’s nightmare.

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