• Phil Tanny
    In an article on the American Philosophical Association blog writer Kristin Conrad Kilgallen suggests that diversity is the most under covered topic in the field of philosophy. I found that an interesting claim, and replied with the following.

    (Please note: I don't know whether the comment I submitted to that page will be published by the editors of the APA blog, but here it is in any case.)


    Diversity is the most under covered topic in philosophy? Hmm, that's an interesting theory. Well, ok, here's a plan which might address the lack of diversity in philosophy. Find some writers who will argue against diversity, and hand them the microphone for a few minutes.

    To me, philosophy can be more than just expressing one's opinions. It can be more than joining the chanting of the currently popular group consensus so as to receive social and career reward.

    A philosopher might be thought of like a defense attorney in a courtroom. A good defense attorney will articulate their client's case with great skill, even if they believe their client to be guilty. It's not the attorney's personal opinion which matters, but rather their ability to make the case.


    As example, such a lawyer-like philosopher might argue that old white men have, over a period of centuries, proven their ability to dominate the field of academic philosophy. That's evidence of superior skill of some kind. The argument might be that academic philosophy is actually a business, an income generating enterprise, and in many fields (popular music as example) old white men have demonstrated their ability to excel at business operations.

    The challenge such a philosopher might face is that the field of academic philosophy is not actually about philosophy, but about generating income, about business. And to make such a case as has been sketched out above would not be good for business, because it would put such a philosopher in conflict with the majority of their peers, perhaps all of them.

    A lawyer-like philosopher making the opposing case might argue that what old white men have accomplished over centuries is to drive the field of philosophy in to the ground, as evidenced by a growing lack of public respect for philosophers, and the resulting threat to the budgets of academic philosophy departments. This would perhaps be a more popular position with the rank and file academic philosophers, but could also be a business problem given that old white men still seem to dominate positions of authority within the field.

    A real philosopher who is liberated from business agendas would not be bothered by these conflicts, because they would understand that the highest calling of philosophers is to examine and test whatever group consensus they encounter, a valuable service to society which inevitably comes at the price of unpopularity.

    Want diversity? Embrace unpopularity. Because nearly everyone else is swimming in the opposite direction.

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