2 replies on “Philosophy’s Western bias and what can be done about it”

  1. Cross-posting my response over there, in case they decide not to post it:

    I’m always offended by discussions like this–unintentionally, perhaps, but still tellingly offended–because even those voices who argue against the parochialism of what’s taught as “philosophy” still seem to believe that only Philosophy departments teach philosophy. I’ve been teaching Chinese philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania for eighteen years now–but my department is East Asian Languages and Civilizations, not Philosophy. It would never have happened in my university’s Philosophy department. (They won’t even cross-list my courses!) There was one major position in Chinese philosophy in a philosophy department when I went on the job market in 1995: the University of Michigan. Suffice it to say that their current faculty list (http://www.lsa.umich.edu/philosophy/people/faculty) doesn’t include anyone with that specialization.

    Translation: you guys in Philosophy departments are systematically shooting yourselves in the foot. Whatever the reason for keeping out Chinese philosophy–ignorance, fear, chauvinism, misplaced devotion to protecting the supposed purity of the profession–the rest of the academy has moved on and isn’t looking back. Could you imagine an Art History department without non-Western art? A Religion department without non-Western religion? Even an English department without literature from beyond the U.K. and U.S.?

    I think the most plausible explanation of the willful ignorance, incidentally, is something I heard Frank Perkins say: “‘This isn’t philosophy’ is code for ‘I don’t have to read this.'” He’s dead right, and it’s a perfect modus operandi for reducing oneself to insignificance. My heart goes out to the few fine China specialists toiling in Philosophy departments today, but I have stopped worrying about whether your profession as a whole will ever change its attitude. We’re doing it ourselves instead.

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