sex, race, culture

headThis guy looks like a football hero, wonder if he suffered brain damage too. (Apparently his people did “practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame“…)

Yes, the World Series is ended, the Titans are better, but I’m still boycotting the NFL. (I was already boycotting NCAA and High School football long  before reading Malcolm Gladwell… unlike my pal at TPA Saturday, who said football is now his religion.)  But that’s not our topic, multiculturalism is.

As noted yesterday in connection with K. Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism, the point is not to deny one’s heritage but to embrace one’s humanity, in all its multi-faceted strangeness and wonder and time-spanning majesty. Do men and women, black and white and red and yellow people, Muslims and Christians and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists (and atheists and agnostics and humanists and Brights) think differently? Sure. So? You have a problem with that? Why?

Many of us naively thought, a year ago, that the election of Barack Obama signaled the end of our long national nightmare of race hatred. It’s still reasonable to hope that it signaled the beginning of the beginning of the end, perhaps, but clearly we’re not all cosmopolites yet.

Socrates may have been the first announced Cosmopolite in the west, declaring himself a proud and loyal Athenian but also a citizen of the world. Or maybe Diogenes the Cynic. Carl Sagan was one, too: a true cosmopolitan is not just a citizen of the planet, but of the cosmos. We’re travelers in time and space.

And where are the women, in philosophy? “We know of female students in Plato’s Academy and female thinkers in the Middle Ages”– do you know the tragic story of Hypatia?– but indeed, “most of them never got the opportunity to run their own schools, found it hard to have their ideas preserved in writing, and have been written out of the official history of the tradition.” Virginia Held is right, it’s a serious distortion of our humanity to identify it with masculinity. But be careful, feminists (of whom I am one): it’s an equal distortion to exalt femininity above all. The revolution we need is not the overthrow of phallocentrism in favor of its distaff counterpart (I don’t dare play with names here!) but the transcendence (not the annihilation) of gender.

But constructive change has begun to come in this arena too. Plenty of women philosophers were in attendance at the TPA conference over the weekend, there is no reputable department of philosophy anywhere across the land without female faculty.  Here’s a list compiled by the BBC, and here’s another.

And although she’s on nobody’s philosophy faculty, I consider Carl Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan a very good philosopher as well.

[NOTE to students: the dog park ate your homework again this weekend, and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” But take heart: one by one my distractions (excuses?) are falling away. Meanwhile, we can try following Lao-Tzu’s cosmopolitan advice: try not to “force your will on the environment, go with the flow.”]


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