SUBMITTED BY MILES ITON AND GIULIA HEYWARD
When Stephen Hawking told the world that philosophy was dead five years ago, there was an outcry. Hundreds of thousands of people came out in defense of a body of work that questions phenomena in a way that no other discipline can do.
Philosophy represents the ability to define all the phenomena we perceive in the world of being, and with that, creating an entire structure for the processes and ethical guidelines of human life. Philosophy is a discipline that questions why we exist. The first time we flipped open a page of Nietzsche or Kant that was assigned to us, it felt like reading a discussion we had always wanted to have. Philosophy made us better thinkers, made us more inquisitive.
But for a discipline that tries to answer questions that pertain to all of us, why is all of the literature from the perspective of people with only one way of looking at the world, a perspective that is white and male? It’s a fact we all know and yet we never address it. Not our professors, not our classmates, and apparently not its critics either.
Historically, philosophy has been exclusionary. The fact that two black kids can even sit in a class and talk about Nietzsche is a product of the last hundred years and people forget it. Spoken Word artist Propaganda, in his song “Precious Puritans”, threw a simple yet deadly barb at the intellectuals of our time when he unabashedly told them it must be nice to have time to contemplate the stars. In a sense, every young philosopher has probably felt this sentiment at one point or another during their tenure in the field. .
Our entire lives are a philosophy on our existences as the Other in society. The questions we ask are just a little more concerned with why our sphere of understanding is so vastly different from the people that we are assigned to read.
So it is understandable why we feel somewhat perturbed as to how our philosophical prowess is determined by how deeply we can dissect the musings of white men in quite literally every category of thought. We can smell the dead every time Immanuel Kant’s theories on moral categorical imperatives determine our professor’s perception of our philosophical aptitude. Kant never even left his hometown often enough (or at all, for that matter) to have the nerve to be the sole moral magistrate telling us the facticities of our being.
That’s not to say that their ideas are immediately invalid because of their relation to us. We as people can have different lived experiences and still fall under a universal law. We can still be tied by universal experiences.
But, in order to do this, we need an inclusive philosophical discourse. One where we can look at W.E.B. Dubois, Angela Davis, Marcus Garvey, Tupac Shakur, Audre Lorde, Cornel West, or bell hooks as pillars of philosophical discourse equal to Socrates and Plato. We can acknowledge our differences in a way that collectively allows ourselves to question existence together, even if we have to redefine a chunk of academia to find it. Philosophy may be dead, but our philosophy is on its way to being born.