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09/12/2015

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Elisa Freschi

Thank you for this substantial contribution, Marcus. As you know, I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you say. I would just stress slightly less the point about attracting more people to philosophy class. It is true that some people may avoid taking philosophy classes because they are only about "white dead men", but I have seen the reactions this kind of argument produces: "We are doing real philosophy, we are not selling ourselves!" I know that you (and the other philosophers who have raised this point) do not mean to say that we shouldbe talking about the "philosophy" of Ariana Grande's songs in order to attract teen-agers, but the reactions sound as if this were the point. Thus, I would rather focus on the main point: Philosophy is enriched by taking into account objections which come from different standpoints, beca, e.g.,use it is only once looked "from outside" that one realises how much of one's intuitions are just due to prejudices or socially established norms.

A further interesting argument about inclusiveness (namely, that the opposite is just UNFAIR!) can be read here: http://elisafreschi.blogspot.co.at/2013/06/why-should-philosophers-study-indian.html

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: Thanks for your kind comment!

I appreciate that concern ("We are doing real philosophy, we are not selling ourselves!"), but I remain unpersuaded. There is nothing wrong with selling something that matters, so long as one does it appropriately and with integrity.

First, if one believes philosophy matters or should matter to ordinary-everyday people--as do I--one should want to attract people to it! Scientists "sell" science, and, provided they don't do it in irresponsible ways (though sometimes they do), their doing so is a good thing. It informs the public, and helps fund science. I think philosophy should follow suit.

Second, and this is the critical part, I do think "selling the discipline" needs to be done in a responsible way. There's responsible "selling" that has philosophical integrity, and irresponsible selling that does not. My point wasn't that we should give the public whatever they want (e.g. courses on Ariana Grande songs). My point was that (A) there are philosophical traditions of real value that (B) would be likely to attract more people, and greater public interest, to the field--and that it is precisely because there *is* philosophical value to other traditions that they should be taught!

Eric Schwitzgebel

Thanks, Marcus, for pushing more on this issue! What you say makes sense to me. I focused on Chinese philosophy and only made a brief gesture to other traditions, but I do think the reasoning extends to other traditions as well!

Elisa Freschi

A further reference to this post appears here: http://elisafreschi.com/2015/09/21/studying-chinese-indian-africana-philosophy-as-part-of-the-regular-curriculum/

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