Let's call philosophy what it really is + Political legitimacy + P Reason ... Actions

If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is

EXCERPT: The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

Given the importance of non-European traditions in both the history of world philosophy and in the contemporary world, and given the increasing numbers of students in our colleges and universities from non-European backgrounds, this is astonishing. No other humanities discipline demonstrates this systematic neglect of most of the civilizations in its domain. The present situation is hard to justify morally, politically, epistemically or as good educational and research training practice.

We each — alongside many colleagues and students — have worked for decades to persuade American philosophy departments to broaden the canon of works they teach; we have urged our colleagues to look beyond the European canon in their own research and teaching. While a few philosophy departments have made their curriculums more diverse, and while the American Philosophical Association has slowly broadened the representation of the world’s philosophical traditions on its programs, progress has been minimal.

Many philosophers and many departments simply ignore arguments for greater diversity; others respond with arguments for Eurocentrism that we and many others have refuted elsewhere. The profession as a whole remains resolutely Eurocentric. It therefore seems futile to rehearse arguments for greater diversity one more time, however compelling we find them.

Instead, we ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness. We therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses only on Western philosophy should rename itself “Department of European and American Philosophy.” This simple change would make the domain and mission of these departments clear, and would signal their true intellectual commitments to students and colleagues. We see no justification for resisting this minor rebranding (though we welcome opposing views in the comments section to this article), particularly for those who endorse, implicitly or explicitly, this Eurocentric orientation.....

Political Legitimacy (First published Thu Apr 29, 2010; substantive revision Fri May 13, 2016)

EXCERPT: Political legitimacy is a virtue of political institutions and of the decisions—about laws, policies, and candidates for political office—made within them. This entry will survey the main answers that have been given to the following questions. First, how should legitimacy be defined? Is it primarily a descriptive or a normative concept? If legitimacy is understood normatively, what does it entail? Some associate legitimacy with the justification of coercive power and with the creation of political authority. Others associate it with the justification, or at least the sanctioning, of existing political authority. Authority stands for a right to rule—a right to issue commands and, possibly, to enforce these commands using coercive power. An additional question is whether legitimate political authority is understood to entail political obligations or not. Most people probably think it does. But some think that the moral obligation to obey political authority can be separated from an account of legitimate authority, or at least that such obligations arise only if further conditions hold.

Next there are questions about the requirements of legitimacy. When are political institutions and the decisions made within them appropriately called legitimate? Some have argued that this question has to be answered primarily on the basis of procedural features that shape these institutions and underlie the decisions made. Others argue that legitimacy depends—exclusively or at least in part—on the substantive values that are realized. A related question is: does political legitimacy demand democracy or not? This question is intensely debated both in the national and the global context. Insofar as democracy is seen as necessary for political legitimacy, when are democratic decisions legitimate? Can that question be answered with reference to procedural features only, or does democratic legitimacy depend both on procedural values and on the quality of the decisions made? Finally, there is the question which political institutions are subject to the legitimacy requirement. Historically, legitimacy was associated with the state and institutions and decisions within the state. The contemporary literature tends to judge this as too narrow, however. This raises the question how the concept of legitimacy may apply—beyond the nation state and decisions made within it—to the international and global context....

Practical Reason and the Structure of Actions (First published Wed Aug 24, 2005; substantive revision Wed May 11, 2016)

EXCERPT: A wave of recent philosophical work on practical rationality is organized by the following implicit argument: Practical reasoning is figuring out what to do; to do is to act; so the forms of practical inference can be derived from the structure or features of action. Now it is not as though earlier work in analytic philosophy had failed to register the connection between action and practical rationality; in fact, practical reasoning was usually picked out as, roughly, reasoning directed toward action. But for much of the twentieth century, attention moved quickly away from this initial delineation of the subject area, to the interplay of beliefs and desires within the mind (instrumentalist theories, including their Davidsonian and Williamsian variants), or to procedures for checking that a plan of action was supported by sufficient yet consistent reasons (Kantian theories), or to the ultra-refined sensibilities of the practically intelligent reasoner (Aristotelian theories). The hallmark of the emerging family of treatments to be surveyed here is, first, the sustained attention paid to answering the question, “What does it take to be an action (at all)?”, and second, the use made of a distinction between full-fledged action and its lesser relatives; characterizations and terminology vary, but often the less robust alternative is called “mere activity” or “mere behavior”. Very schematically, these arguments for a theory of practical reasoning try to show that reasons brought to bear on choice must have some particular logical form, if action is not to lapse into something less than that.

The current state of the dialectic is evidently transitional, because work of this sort for the most part does not yet speak to other work of the same kind. (Recent exceptions are marked below, and it does speak to earlier but differently focused work in the field.) Despite their shared agreement that practical reasoning is where the action is, and the consequent willingness to accord explanatory priority to action theory in developing theories of practical rationality, these theorists differ among themselves as to what the most central features of actions are, and accordingly they disagree about what the legitimate patterns of practical inference turn out to be. They also differ in their underlying philosophical motivations, as well as in what they take to be the upshots of their views for substantive moral theory. For that reason, the considerations in play do not have the sort of mutual coherence and organization characteristic of the discussion of some of the more settled philosophical problem spaces.

The purpose of this overview is to provide a map of this territory, and because interchanges between the theorists in it are infrequent, this is primarily going to mean describing the disparate research programs that have adopted its framing argument. Because the priority is to highlight both their common ground, and the ways in which these programs nonetheless talk past one another, this article will not press a number of problems internal to the several research programs. If you notice some obvious but unaddressed objection to some line of inquiry, don't assume you're making a mistake, but don't let it sidetrack you.

The features of action that have come in for the most attention are, first, its calculative structure, second, its attributability, third, its aspiration to be challenging and ambitious, fourth its role in social practice, and fifth, its evaluative features, and they will be discussed in that order. That will permit us to conclude with remarks about the prospects and agenda of this approach to practical deliberation....
My assumption has long been that philosophy was an exclusively Euro-American phenomenon simply because I've never heard of philosophy from any other part of the world. Jorge Luis Borges has always enchanted me though, so I know it must've been going on in South America. It's sad that all these thinkers are deliberately overlooked in academia. What might we learn by including them? Is it a translation issue--that philosophical treatises are very hard to translate from their original language? Or is it just plain old prejudice again rearing its ugly head this time in the hallowed halls of academia?
(May 21, 2016 07:52 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: [...] It's sad that all these thinkers are deliberately overlooked in academia. What might we learn by including them? Is it a translation issue--that philosophical treatises are very hard to translate from their original language? Or is it just plain old prejudice again rearing its ugly head this time in the hallowed halls of academia?

The SEP (Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) actually has a growing number of entries about works / views from other societies, though that might be taken by some to just be a token act to ensure its global value as a consulted reference.

Part of this supposed neglect may be due to Anglophone philosophy having a tendency to fancy itself as having boundaries that must be respected, similar to science (or that it even is a satellite of science or naturalism). Which has led to it to intermittently distinguishing itself from slash having negative reactions in the past against continental philosophy (especially the latter 20th century Francophone species[1][2]). The impetus of that may have engendered a knee-jerk skepticism to viewing exotic philosophies elsewhere as lacking rigorous standards and being akin to religious or pretentious scholarly concoctions.

There are some rival (to the West) cultural centrisms which purportedly have crafted pseudo-historical backgrounds as fantastical as the Old Testament's attempt to make Israel / Hebrews / Jews the center of attention in the universe (via being God's chosen people). Demoting European ancestors to intellectual thieves of ancient, advanced civilizations in Africa, India, Asia, the pre-colonial Americas, lost continents, etc (I guess Anita's "white people came from Mars or were hybrids with Martian DNA" might have been a mangled, fugitive, New Age / UFO cult spin from that territory -- remember her?)

- - - - - - - - -

[1] TED HONDERICH: One thinks of French philosophy that it aspires to the condition of literature or the condition of art, and that English and American philosophy aspires to the condition of science. French philosophy, one thinks of as picking up an idea and running with it, possibly into a nearby brick wall or over a local cliff, or something like that. --"Today"; BBC Radio 4; 1990s

[2] Derrida controversy at Cambridge: The Philosophy Faculty at Cambridge courted controversy amongst the academic community in March 1992, when three of its members posed a temporary veto against the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Jacques Derrida; they and other non-Cambridge proponents of analytic philosophy protested against the granting on the grounds that Derrida's work "did not conform with accepted measures of academic rigor." Although the University eventually passed the motion, the episode did more to draw attention to the continuing antipathy between the analytic (of which Cambridge's faculty is a leading exponent) and the post-Hegelian continental philosophical traditions (with which Derrida's work is more closely associated).

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  What is this feeling we call "sublime"? C C 7 474 Jan 12, 2019 08:34 PM
Last Post: Syne
  Consolation philosophy & the struggle of reason in Africa C C 2 207 Oct 4, 2018 05:05 AM
Last Post: Yazata
  Beauvoir’s political philosophy resonates today+ Dennett's new book + SEP updates C C 0 182 Mar 11, 2017 01:48 AM
Last Post: C C

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)