Students are demanding more diverse Philosophy courses without white men like Plato and Kant

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Students are demanding more diverse Philosophy courses without white men like Plato and Kant

Sorry Descartes, you’re out

2017 could finally be the year that traditional philosophers are dropped from the syllabus, as students have deemed them to white, too male and too old.

We could be waving goodbye to Plato, Kant and Descartes as campaigners at SOAS want the curriculum to focus on philosophers from the developing world instead, in order to “decolonise” the way we learn.

SOAS SU say they want the “majority of philosophers on our courses” to be ones from Asia and Africa, blaming “pervasive colonial attitudes” in the “white institution” that is their university. The union also says they only want to study white philosophers “if required” and only within their “colonial context”.

It comes after Oxford University’s decision to transform courses to be more diverse, after demands from students. Oxford’s new Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson recently invited Sir Hilary Beckles, a fellow VC at the University of West Indies, to speak about Britain’s debt to Africa and the Caribbean.

But Erica Hunter, head of SOAS’ Religions and Philosophies department, dismissed the union’s motion as “rather ridiculous”, saying: “I would firmly resist dropping philosophers or historians just because it was fashionable.”

The Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University, Sir Anthony Seldon, called it “political correctness getting out of control”, and it’s also been criticised by philosopher and writer Sir Roger Scruton who told the Mail on Sunday: “You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy.

“If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.”


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