RPP 6

I think the “Seminar Seven” materials provide a compelling commentary on the way in which our education and way of thinking about research has been shaped. In terms of the “historical character of knowing” these readings only reinforced the idea that history in itself is essentially a social construction. Many say that “history is written by the victor” which in itself should be an indication that history incorporates a human aspect, one of interpretation, perception, and inherent flaws that are possessed by all humans. The best source of enlightenment on the character of history could be found in the quote “The reason why Chicago heralds itself as the founding school is because everyone else does too.”[1] This sentiment clearly portrays that what is considered to be true, and thus what is the most important knowledge is what society decides fits this criteria, even if it might objectively be wrong, as is he case when W.E.B. Dubois is not portrayed as a founding father of sociology.[2] This is essentially academic discovery’s version of the classic tree in a forest paradigm, “if a discovery is made first but no one acknowledges its presence, is it influential and worthy of being taught?” With this understanding of history in hand, I go forth to now address my opinions of the “research cannon” that, based off our conversations in class, likely to diverge from my classmates.

My opinion on the cannon of scholarly research is one that stresses the continued importance of the traditional works. This sentiment was expressed by Malik’s piece when his interviewee was confronted with the movement’s statement (which is admittedly being changed) “If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical viewpoint.”[3] I found this extremely troubling on the grounds that the mission itself seemed to discredit the potential value that traditional western philosophers can provide. To be blunt, there is a reason that these scholars have been praised and studied by so many, and I am extremely doubtful that their skin color or ethnicity is the only reason. After all, even if the cannon was complied and reinforced to exclude all other cultures, it does not explain why these few scholars (Aristotle, Locke, Kant) continue to be praised rather than other thinkers with the same physical and ethnic attributes. Therefore I wish to contend that while prejudice has clearly shaped the literary cannon by establishing the works foundational researchers used as excluding non-western thinkers, and thus causing subsequent readers to read these same texts in order to understand their works, the solution is not to do away completely with western philosophy. I promote that instead the “academic cannon of research” be expanded. However for the sake of not only the continued ability of students to interpret previous works, but to continue to advance their own academic quests based off of the knowledge western philosophy provides (which much like the marginalized texts that should be added, do contain invaluable resources), we should by no means simply rid our curriculum of great western philosophers.

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[1] Julian Go, “The Case for Scholarly Reparations,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology (2016).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kenan Malik, “Are Soas Students Right to ‘Decolonise’ Their Minds from Western Philosophers?,” The Guardian (2017), https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/19/soas-philosopy-decolonise-our-minds-enlightenment-white-european-kenan-malik.


Bibliography

Go, Julian. “The Case for Scholarly Reparations.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology (2016).

Malik, Kenan. “Are Soas Students Right to ‘Decolonise’ Their Minds from Western Philosophers?” The Guardian (2017). https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/19/soas-philosopy-decolonise-our-minds-enlightenment-white-european-kenan-malik.

 

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