Justin Weinberg at the DAILY NOUS philosophy blog has an interesting post on diversity, standards, and professional philosophy. This is a response to his remarks and to those of Bharath Vallabha in the comments section.

The idea of “standards of diversity” while not necessarily self-contradictory, does contain a tension between the two terms. I agree with Bharath that diversification comes first, and that it is already here. There are people all over the place who think philosophically, in some senses of philosophy, but outside the academy, the institutions, or the canons, or the entrenched standards.

But behind the question of diversity and philosophy, the desired solution is often more than proposing or canonising or institutionalising a diversity of standards. Standards themselves need to be used in new ways, that officialise, or at least foreground, their ambiguity, multiplicity, contingency, and mutability.

There has been for some time now an increasing demand for “non-standard” philosophy, which does not mean having no standards or simply multiple standards. Diversify the people acceding to institutional position and recognition is a good thing, but may be a way of neutralising diversity by incorporating it into established standards that remain unquestioned and unchanged. Diversify the positions and traditions that gain recognition, support, publication, a place on the syllabus, argumentative clout, this opens up the game to new moves and not just to new players.

But many people want more than this, they want to call into question and to diversify the rules of the game, to transform the game or to help it evolve.

I like Bharath’s idea to “foster diversity”. To foster means to welcome, to encourage, and also to promote something that is already there, to assist (and even to participate in) its flourishing. Yet his solution is fraught with difficulties.

He advises the diverse non-standard philosopher to “get with like-minded people” – this is harder than it seems. Those with the standards dominate the institutions, the accepted channels, the recognisable pathways. They have the most visibility, and inspire the most emulation. So finding like minded people is more difficult, as they are less visible. They may also, like oneself, be more confused: seeking recognition, approval from those that they distance themselves from.This is a contradictory gesture.

There is also the question of resources, whether financial, bibliographical, or even just conversational.

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  1. Ari says:

    If one is comfortable with one’s incomparable obscurity as a nobody then seeking recognition and approval is not that important. There is strength in this sort of unlikely possibility. I imagine anyone who has a diversified mixture of thoughts will have enough ironic distance to one’s own talk and that of others to most easily make room for whatever. I am not talking anarchy but I imagine anything non-standard requires a lot of experimentation and working through errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. terenceblake says:

    A solitary thinker, aware of their own diversity, pursuing their experimentations, comfortable in their obscurity, indifferent to recognition and approval. This is one life-model, but not the only one. It easily shades into despair or into resignation faced with injustice.


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