Plato? Descartes? Kant? Pivotal figures, all, who irreversibly changed the direction of what Richard Rorty called the conversation of the West. But to the up-and-coming generation of students, there’s a problem.
Weren’t they all white males?
With Plato it might be hard to tell. He was whatever ethnicity the ancient Greeks who lived on the Mediterranean Sea could be classified as, assuming it different, and he might have one redeeming feature among today’s students. He was gay.
Read all about it here.
I find it interesting that the “prestigious British university” is not named until very late in the article. Presumably the author didn’t want to embarrass the institution too badly.
This is coming primarily from students, and one has to wonder what the dickens is going on at the secondary level these days. (Although we see similar stuff occurring in U.S. institutions.)
The motivation seems to be an effort to “decolonize” Western philosophy: to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism.” I have to place this in the same category with those “scholars” who are attacking the very idea of “whiteness.” I have no idea what they mean. Somehow, I don’t think it’s my ignorance at fault.
To their credit, there is pushback from the faculty, and from British philosophers worth listening to. Roger Scruton, for example, said, “You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it, and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy … If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.”
So would I, including what a phrase like white philosophy could conceivably refer to that is specific enough to give it content. Need I observe that Western nations and peoples, however we classify their ethnicity, have produced many different philosophies and kinds of philosophy?
Professional philosophers should resist this nonsense, although the generational tide being what it is, and the phenomenon being international, and not limited to the U.S. or probably even to the Anglophone world, I imagine resisting the increasingly irrational demands of Generation Snowflake will be easier said than done. With “populism” on the rise within the larger culture as a countervailing force, it is hard not to envision major conflicts ahead, especially if those of us who defend essentially traditional approaches to doing philosophy and teaching it decide we are going to stand our ground, and that Generation Snowflake’s anxieties about “whiteness” and other irrational feelings are their problem, and not ours.