“If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is”

Jay L. Garfield (Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore) and Bryan W. Van Norden (Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College) claim on the Opinion Pages of the New York Times (May 11, 2016) that “if Philosophy won’t diversify, let’s call it what it really is”.


Philosophy, mural by Robert Lewis Reid. Second Floor, North Corridor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C, digital ID highsm.02219

Here you can find the article.

The authors argue that “philosophy as a discipline has a serious diversity problem, with women and minorities underrepresented at all levels among students and faculty”. According to them philosophical research and curricula in the USA are dominated by canonical texts written by white men in Europe and the English-speaking world. With regard to the increasing number of students from non-European backgrounds and the importance of non-Anglo-European philosophy they ask to broaden the philosophical canon (e.g. Confucius, Avicenna, Candrakirti). For the universities and colleges which ignore such arguments for a greater diversity Garfield and Van Norden suggest to “rebrand” their departments and call them “Departments of European and American Philosophy.”: “This simple change would make the domain and mission of these departments clear, and would signal their true intellectual commitments to students and colleagues”.

Interesting enough: Many readers commenting on the article point out that their philosophical education has been dominated by Anglo-American authors and that they even see a huge lack in European philosophy at US universities. How diverse is philosophy in Europe? Are European universities confronted with a similar situation?

Stefanie Rentsch

Dr. Stefanie Rentsch ist wissenschaftliche Referentin am Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin und leitet dort den Bereich Publikationen und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. Blogs: trafo.hypotheses.org, academies.hypotheses.org Stefanie Rentsch is head of publications and communication at the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin. Blogs: trafo.hypotheses.org, academies.hypotheses.org

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