Time to ‘fix’ study of philosophy, which is still all dead white men

Time to ‘fix’ study of philosophy, which is still all dead white men

Across the country, students have been “dismantling the master’s house”. They weren’t smashing their principals’ offices, but rather demanding a revision of their predominantly white, predominantly male curricula. From UCL to LSE to York, Warwick, Nottingham and Kent, the student-led campaign “Why Is My Curriculum White?” has attracted thousands of people concerned that the course content at universities across the country reflects white dominance and under-represents black people.

[But] when it comes to philosophy, … – a particularly important discipline as our world is built on ideas – the work of white males, dead or alive, dominates the field. This is not simply because white males have contributed profound work, but also due to the glaring yet tacitly silenced relationship between power structures and knowledge. This is why philosophy professor Angela Davis’s complex body of work on the social justice system has not influenced contemporary philosophical studies on prisons in the way Michel Foucault’s work on the same topic has. Or why the Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yaekob, who long before Nietzsche declared that “God is dead”, daringly criticised organised religion in his 1667 treatise, Hatata, where he also said: “He who investigates with pure intelligence … will discover the truth.” But despite promoting reason in this way, he is not dubbed the father of modern philosophy, Descartes is.

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