Jun 24Liked by Ada Akpala

I studied and taught philosophy for MANY years at A level and at universities in the UK and US. The focus was never on the geographical origins, colour, or sexual preferences of the thinkers. It was focused entirely on what they actually SAID and how it could be defended LOGICALLY (Plato does not fare well on that score. Clever wordplay; bad reasoning, but it's something to work on). I appreciate that, today, emotions seem to trump logic, but I've no time for that and given the potential emotional content of some ethical discussions (abortion, capital punishment, etc) it's vital to leave any emotional baggage OUTSIDE the classroom. With logic you have a good chance of identifying potentially useful truths about the human experience separate from what we used to call 'anecdotal evidence' which provides nice examples, but is useless for the purposes of a shared analysis. This is because EVERYONE has a slightly different and unique experience of the world. We're looking for things that can be broadly applied to all humans, regardless of ethnicity, gender, personal experience or anything else, not one individual's unique take.

Further, calling Hume or Plato or Aristotle 'armchair theorists' while lauding anecdotal evidence ('lived experience') is to condemn the very thing they're pushing. If ever there was an example of 'armchair theorising', it's spouting unchallengeable personal anecdotes rooted in emotions. Working out a logically structured argument that is as emotionless and non-identifiable as possible; something that can be understood by all those studying regardless of where they come from or their life experience; something whose value stands or falls solely on the strength and structure of the process rather than whether or not you've been through it, is the ultimate in shared, universalisable, rational reasoning -- and mastering that is something anyone from any background has the chance of doing. Claiming non-whites are, effectively, too stupid to manage this is insulting in the extreme, patronising, and dismissive. I've taught some brilliant students over the years of all creeds and colours. Most were young, but some were mature with a wealth of personal experience under their belts, but on these topics, they were on the same level. What marked the difference between those who got top marks and those who did not do so well was a willingness to put the work in. That's something anyone can do. It's not reserved for white people alone. Personal experience, on the other hand, is reserved for each individual and cannot be fully shared (even if you hear the story, hearing someone else describing some terrible experience and going through it yourself are VERY different). Hard work, reading the texts (from which you cannot actually tell the origins of the author unless you've a linguist reading all in the original languages. You certainly cannot tell their skin colour or sexual preferences. More importantly, you don't care!) , discussing the ideas and finding ways to share that understanding that is not dependent on factors unique to each person, but rather on recognised external standards that can be shared, allows anyone from anywhere to dive in and discuss complex topics on a level playing field.

This is utter, self-contradictory nonsense from people who don't understand philosophy at all, but see an opportunity to push a divisive, neo-Marxist-based agenda into yet another area. Leave that racist, ideologically-biased rubbish at the door, please. We don't want it.

Expand full comment

Very well said. It's refreshing to hear from someone who has actually taught philosophy and understands its core principles. This trend reeks of an attempt to inject identity politics into yet another field of study. Logical reasoning and universal applicability are the cornerstones of philosophical discussions. Without them, it ceases to be philosophy and becomes something else entirely.

Expand full comment
Jun 22·edited Jun 22Liked by Ada Akpala

This is a shocking article. I’ve called myself the leading black British philosopher of my generation and founder of black Cartesianism. This is a deliberate provocation, I invite people to disagree or be curious about what I’m saying and why, this is what I believe philosophy is about. As individuals and as societies philosophical questions recur. We are thrown in to the world and try to make sense of it. If Socrates and Descartes did not exist we would have to invent them. Please have a look at my Substack where I recently wrote a post about the pros and cons of ‘lived experience’, it is a work in progress, philosophy always is.

Expand full comment