Mansplaining? inclusiveness in philosophy

One problem a woman can have when men explain things to her is that the subject matter can change in puzzling and even bizarre ways.  And at least some of us can be flummoxed since we feel obliged to absorb the ideas of an earnest interlocutor in our debate.  Such a situation may arise with today’s The Stone.

The author maintains that when we trace back the history of various ideas of contemporary interest, we may find our discussions draw on ideas originally formulated in distant times by people radically different from today’s academic philosophers.

The author concludes that unless we make an effort to include all the diverse origins of contemporary ideas, our efforts at contemporary inclusiveness will be paltry.


The idea seems to suggest this: Human beings have for millenia had ideas about, for example, how bodies get connected to thinkers; unless we includes such conjectures in our philosophy of mind courses, insisting on giving a place to voices of different sorts alive today is really a sham.

The adequate account of any conceptual innovation or discovery in philosophy would be the one that also gives an account of its place in the broader context of human culture and history, and that would reveal its inextricable connection to cultural practices and human concerns that at first glance appear rather far removed from the concerns of the philosopher. This is an impossible goal, of course, but we can at least tend toward it, as toward the limit of an infinite series, if we wish. If we do not learn to see this effort as intrinsic to the study of philosophy, the recent calls for greater inclusiveness of other standpoints within philosophy will remain mere half-measures.

We might take the article to pose this question: are there good reasons for wanting to open philosophy to contemporary women that do not commit us to wanting to open philosophy to the hunters’ and gatherers’ thought of past millennia? The idea that inclusiveness must embrace our very distant past seems to employ conceptions of doing philosophy and of inclusiveness that change the topic.

What do you think?

NOTE: I will not be able to moderate any more comments to day, so I am closing comments. It’s 4:33 pm, cdt.