Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Diversity in Philosophy

We’ve spoken a little in #Philosophy12 this semester about the propensity of texts and teachers to rely on the roots of Western (and often male-centric) philosophers to form the basis of our understanding on the subject of knowledge, something we will likely address as we move toward epistemology this semester. However, the discussion has come about in our classroom in years past with respect to the search for female metaphysicians:

This tweet [to the left] started a ball rolling that saw me sending a late-at-night email to MIT Philosophy professor Sally Haslanger about why there weren’t any female Metaphysicians listed on Wikipedia’s List of Metaphysicists [Note: the page has since been updated to reflect our question.]. Sally was gracious enough to email me back the following morning, asking if she might “share your question with some of my female metaphysician friends?”

Which gave way to a conversation that began in room 111 – and on #ds106radio – showing up on this blog, moderated at least in part by Berit Brogaard:

Bryan Jackson recently wrote to Sally Haslanger to ask why there were no women on the list of metaphysicians on wikipedia. Sally shared this very good question with a few philosophers who have been interested in similar questions. After some discussion via email Sally started revising the entry. I have no idea how to revise wiki entries or what the rules are for making revisions, but I strongly encourage wiki-tech-y people to make further improvements to the list.

This week, GNA rekindled this conversation by passing along this essay by Concordia professor Justin E. H. Smith on “Philosophy’s Western Bias“:

The goal of reflecting the diversity of our own society by expanding the curriculum to include non-European traditions has so far been a tremendous failure. And it has failed for at least two reasons. One is that non-Western philosophy is typically represented in philosophy curricula in a merely token way. Western philosophy is always the unmarked category, the standard in relation to which non-Western philosophy provides a useful contrast. Non-Western philosophy is not approached on its own terms, and thus philosophy remains, implicitly and by default, Western. Second, non-Western philosophy, when it does appear in curricula, is treated in a methodologically and philosophically unsound way: it is crudely supposed to be wholly indigenous to the cultures that produce it and to be fundamentally different than Western philosophy in areas like its valuation of reason or its dependence on myth and religion.  In this way, non-Western philosophy remains fundamentally “other.”

It is my hope that in our current semester of philosophical inquiry, we move beyond this inclination toward ‘tokenism,’ and delve into different traditions of knowing beyond those dominant here on the western shores of North America.

I am curious though:

  • How have others confronted this problem of modern philosophy?
  • Are there in-born limitations in trying to comprehend cultural norms too far outside of our own?
  • What attitudes, approaches or processes might help challenge us to move beyond our own cultural perspectives?




Gilles Deleuze and His View of Reality- Leanne

The following blog post contains some of the most pretentious sounding sentences I have ever had the need to type. A thesaurus may have helped in terms of brevity, but it sounds much fancier this way so I intend to keep it as so.

Gilles Deleuze’s owed his contributions to philosophy to his teachers and to various figures who inspired him, including Jean-Paul Sartre. Deleuze agregated in philosophy in 1948 and taught at various French post-secondary establishments until he took up a position at the Sorbonne in ’57. He suffered throughout his life with a debilitating pulmonary condition that grew in severity as his death loomed closer. Though he had a lung removed, the disease spread and he was forced to undergo a tracheotomy and he lost his power of speech. In the last few years of his life, even writing by hand were considered Herculean tasks and in 1995 he committed suicide by throwing himself from his apartment window. His autobiography shares that when once asked to talk about his life, he said “Academics’ lives are seldom interresting.”

His works can be separated into two groups: his monographs interpreting the work of other philosophers, and various philosophical works organized by concept.

One of his main projects was (I accredit the following large words to the internet, where from I stole them) essentially a ‘systematic inversion of the traditional metaphysical relationship between identity and difference’. (Basically, he disagrees to a certain level.) Wikipedia nicely sums up the traditional view: “Traditionally, difference is seen as derivative from identity: e.g., to say that “X is different from Y” assumes some X and Y with at least relatively stable identities.”

Deleuze claimed that identities are effects of difference, and that identities are neither logically nor metaphysically prior to difference, “Given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus.” Essentially, no two things are ever the same and the categories with which we identify them derive from differences. His argument stated that apparent identities such as “x” are made up of infinite differences, where “x” = the difference between “y” and “z”, and “y” = the difference between “a” and “b” and so on. Deleuze claimed that to honestly confront the concept of reality, we must grasp beings precisely how they are, and the concepts of identity (categories, resemblances, forms, etc) fail to attain what he has entitled “difference in itself.” He once said that “If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference.”

Many of his other beliefs in the realm of metaphysics ran parallel to those of Immanuel Kant. 

“What do you know about me, given that I believe in secrecy? … If I stick where I am, if I don’t travel around, like anyone else I make my inner journeys that I can only measure by my emotions, and express very obliquely and circuitously in what I write. … Arguments from one’s own privileged experience are bad and reactionary arguments.”

-Gilles Deleuze