DIVERSITY IN PHILOSOPHY: not just an academic question

Bharath Vallabha argues that the best way to navigate on the “sea of diversity” is to come to a recognition of our common state as mixtures of diverse socio-psychological elements and cultural traditions. I think this awareness of being a mixture is very important, and makes us wary of standards of demarcation that are too hard and fast and unambiguous.

At the same time, I think there are a number of different phases that this awareness can go through. Sometimes it is necessary to embrace the mixity, to see that everything is philosophical to some extent, that philosophy does not stop at the walls of the academy. Sometimes we need more precise perceptions of our mixity, to be able to say, at least provisionally, this is philosophical and that is something else (fiction, or spirituality, or emotional intelligence, etc.).

Sometimes “if one is physically alone or poor or not going to the cool conferences”, one can feel one’s philosophicality rotting away or on the contrary affirming itself with new strength.

Many affects, sad and joyful, are at play in this Anaxagorean consciousness. Cultivating an awareness of diversity, of oneself and others as variable mixtures, of one’s affects and phases, working on changing one’s habits of thought and of action, all that is no doubt very good. However, there is a split not just inside our minds, but also in the world, even if we can overcome it privately.

There are filters that determine who is listened to, what is heard, who can speak. This means that much philosophical work outside existing standards, or outside the academy, can be neglected or ignored, reduced to silence, or treated as equivalent to silence. Work should be acknowledged, encouraged, shared, even if it is not remunerated financially. Professional philosophy is just that: a profession. Changes (or not) in philosophy cannot be separated from questions of work and pay, of entitlement and publication.

This raises the more general question of power relations. Diversity is becoming a more pressing problem within philosophy because it has been gaining ground in society at large. Diversity does not stop at the walls of the academy either, the walls are porous in both directions.

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