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 Topic: Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers?

 (Read 1096 times)
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  • Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers?
     OP - February 19, 2017, 06:01 PM

    Quote from: Kenan Malik
    Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers?

    “They Kant be serious!”, spluttered the Daily Mail headline in its most McEnroe-ish tone. “PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from university syllabus”. “Great thinkers too male and pale, students declare”, trumpeted the Times. The Telegraph, too, was outraged: “They are said to be the founding fathers of western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white.”

    The prestigious London University was the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). It hit the headlines last month when journalists discovered that students, backed by many of their lecturers, have set up a campaign to “Decolonise Our Minds” by transforming the curriculum. So shocking did the idea seem of a British university refusing to teach Plato, Locke or Kant that the story was picked up by newspapers across the globe. BBC2’s Newsnight debated whether “universities should eschew western philosophers”. This predictably generated more outraged headlines when one of the guests, sociologist Kehinde Andrews, denounced Soas as a “white institution” and the Enlightenment as “racist”.

    For academics and students at Soas, the press coverage itself is the cause of outrage. “When the report came out that we were trying to take white men off the table, it was just bewildering because we had no intention of doing that,” says Sian Hawthorne, a convenor of the undergraduate course World Philosophies, the only philosophy degree that Soas provides. “Our courses are intimately engaged with European thought.”

    “We’re not trying to exclude European thinkers,” says a second-year doctoral student, and a member of the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We’re trying to desacralise European thinkers, stopping them from being treated as unquestionable. What we are doing is quite reasonable.”

    So what is the truth behind the headlines? Will philosophy students at Soas really not be taught Aristotle and Kant? Do the students and academics have a point that the curriculum is “too white”? And what should be the place of European philosophy, and European philosophers, in an age of globalisation and of a shifting power balance from west to east?

    I went to Soas to talk to students and academics. “That’s the one thing,” one student told me, “that no journalist has so far done.”
     ....

    Read the rest: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/19/soas-philosopy-decolonise-our-minds-enlightenment-white-european-kenan-malik
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #1 - February 19, 2017, 06:05 PM

    Decolonising SOAS: Student perspectives
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dsKQtY15cdc
    On facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/DecolonisingOurMinds/
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #2 - February 21, 2017, 05:17 AM

    Some of the students views are odd.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #3 - February 25, 2017, 10:34 PM

    They are wrong to suggest those Philosophers should not be mentioned in classes. After all, they did massively develop the field. But teaching about Chinese, Arab, Hellenistic, Indian and African philosophy would seem a more appropriate approach. These can be contrasted carefully and it be seen how culture influences philosophical thought. And how thoughts converge despite this.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #4 - February 25, 2017, 10:50 PM

    I don't think the students were really suggesting that white European philosophers shouldn't be mentioned. It was more of an issue of misreporting. Here's another quote from the article in the OP:
    Quote from: Kenan Malik
    For academics and students at Soas, the press coverage itself is the cause of outrage. “When the report came out that we were trying to take white men off the table, it was just bewildering because we had no intention of doing that,” says Sian Hawthorne, a convenor of the undergraduate course World Philosophies, the only philosophy degree that Soas provides. “Our courses are intimately engaged with European thought.”

    “We’re not trying to exclude European thinkers,” says a second-year doctoral student, and a member of the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We’re trying to desacralise European thinkers, stopping them from being treated as unquestionable. What we are doing is quite reasonable.”

  • Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #5 - February 25, 2017, 10:54 PM

    I don't think the students were really suggesting that white European philosophers shouldn't be mentioned. It was more of an issue of misreporting. Here's another quote from the article in the OP:


    Yeah thanks. I think with that in mind, it's true that we do "desacralise" thinkers. At the same time, we shouldn't do it solely on the basis that they are white. That is stupidity. They have produced a lot of great material and thinkers should be valued for that - the merit of their thinking!
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #6 - February 25, 2017, 10:55 PM

    Agreed.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #7 - February 26, 2017, 04:44 AM

    Again it seems odd that any philosopher is treated as unquestionable or such an idea is taught in general classes. I could see treating certain philosophers different depending on which school of thought one follows. However even in Thomism no philosopher is treated as unquestionable and that school of thought is linked with a religion which is far more prone to absolutes.

    I think the SOAS claim has no basis.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #8 - February 26, 2017, 08:46 AM

    What do you understand as the 'SOAS claim'?
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #9 - February 26, 2017, 02:04 PM

    The claim I was talking about was that European philosophers are treated as unquestionable icons. This seems bizarre that such view would be actually taught. Also to put forward all European philosophers are tainted thus their work is reaching. More a basic idea of philosophy is that no single person or view is unquestionable. The opposite is taught; question, question, question. The idea that Greek thought is racists is bizarre. Aristotle wrote about natural slavery which went well beyond the typical race based slavery of later developed in Europe. Later figures borrowing from him to support their own ideas of slavery does not make Aristotle a racist.

    I can understand focusing on different sources of philosophy. I have no issue with that. However as per above these students have lumped in certain views along side valid ones.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #10 - February 26, 2017, 04:38 PM

    Yes, it's probably fair to say there's a mix of ideas going on with the students, some better than others. I do think there's a kind of traditionally accepted canon of philosophy that is a bit ahistorical in that it leaves out much of the writing in Arabic that actually transmitted (and developed) learning from the ancient world to medieval and early modern Europe. Peter Adamson's 'history of philosophy without any gaps' podcasts look quite good on covering this:

    https://www.historyofphilosophy.net/all-episodes

    I don't really think philosophers writing in Greek were more western, white or European than philosophers writing in Arabic. They were just from two different Near Eastern languages and cultures, often from the same geographical areas but in different periods. The idea of a development of European thought in a direct line from ancient Athens to nineteenth century Western Europe seems to me a kind of ideological construct and appropriation of someone else's history.
  • Are Soas students right to ?decolonise? their minds from western philosophers?
     Reply #11 - February 27, 2017, 07:38 AM

    There are also other issues being ignored such as impact versus merely history. For example "Ptah Hotep's" work had no impact on greater views outside Egypt, as far as evidence goes. While figures like Ibn Sina go beyond Spain and the fall of Muslim Spain. From a historical standpoint "Ptah Hotep" is interesting as he provides an insight to the culture of the time but from a philosophy standpoint is of little importance.  Fanon for example was both important in history and philosophy thus should be a figure included. Of course these students should also apply critical thinking as the man had odd views about women and gays.  So are students interested in the impact figures had in philosophy or merely a history of figures called philosopher as history lesson? How far can one discuss Fanon without bringing up Marx? So on and so on.

    The students seem to be making demands but have little idea of who to include, at least as far as the article goes. This is a problem as this demand seems to place the burden of producing new curriculum on the figures that created the very curriculum the students have issues with. More so I would like to see how Kant's racist views have anything to do with Critique of Pure Reason. Like I said a lot of their view are generalizations but do not attack specific works over all the figures these students see as "tainted". As a teacher would say, "Show your work"
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