Opening the doors for increased inclusiveness in Philosophy

Does philosophy have a culture problem? It’s something that’s worth thinking about, especially considering how many people honestly don’t like the idea of even bringing up race, culture, or the thought that we might have to improve the conversation in some way. Stereotypes harm productive discussion and in a realm like philosophy that’s the last thing that anyone wants.

So what can we do to increase inclusiveness within philosophy? Plenty, really.

1. Recognize Subtle Biases

We are often hypervigilant against open biases, because we know how damaging they can be. However, in our quest to stomp out the most obvious offenders, we ignore the stealthy ones that sneak right in through the front door and into the classroom. If you’re teaching a class, consider anonymous grading. This way you don’t think about race, gender, or background as you grade. The quality of the writing will stand out more than anything else.

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2. Speak Up About Inclusiveness

When other people around you don’t know how to be inclusive, it’s often an infinite loop of frustration. People might not think to speak about more than just traditional European philosophers. There’s a wealth of knowledge in other cultures, to the point that we don’t think anyone’s ever truly reaped all of the available knowledge out there. There are so many underrepresented backgrounds that it’s hard to know where to really get started on such an issue. Continue reading “Opening the doors for increased inclusiveness in Philosophy”

My top 5 recent inspirations

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid

First up is legendary architect, Zaha Hadid. I’ve always been vaguely aware of Hadid’s work but it actually wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I caught the BBC Imagine documentary on her life, that my interest was really sparked. The innovation and research she has pushed throughout the years has been mind-blowing, particularly her work generating fluid, organic designs though specially developed computer software. But the biggest surprise of the documentary for me was the focus on her bold, unique architectural drawings. While having a purpose as a building plan, they are also incredible artworks in their own right. It is now my mission to have one on my wall!

Alexandre Dubosc

On first glance the animations of French film-maker Alexander Dubosc appear to be typical quirky stop motion animations. But as many of his films develop they reveal an extra layer of interest based on the very oldest forms of animation. Taking the basic concepts of Victorian devices such as the zoptrope and phenokistoscope, he has painstakingly created incredible moving images with various every day objects (usually food) all in-camera. It has to be seen to be believed! Being a motion design obsessive and a lover of cakes  Dubosc’s work is a combination of my favourite things and inspires me every time he releases a film.

Björk : Biophilia

Bjork - Biophilia

In 2012 Björk released her new album as a collection of groundbreaking interactive worlds housed within an app. Each app has it’s own theme in connection with the songs content. Björk has been very vocal over the years about getting more people to engage with playing and experiencing music, and this app let’s you interact with all the musical elements in the song. There’s far too much to describe here but I highly recommend this app. It has brought me inspiration across design, interaction development and the limitless nature of technology.

Griottes Blog

Griottes is the blog of French Art Director, Emilie. It’s a visual feast of stunning photography, tasty food and quirky graphics. I always look to her blog when I need a bit of fun inspiration. I particularly like the foody Pantones she created two years ago.

Faces in Places

And last but not least, as all designers know, sometimes deadlines can loom and pressure can build so if you’re in need of a quick cheer up what better way than to find Faces in Places! (Warning: you will start to see faces in everything once you follow this blog!)

Bonus Round

David Birnbaum

What can I really say about a gentleman who has over 180 of the world’s top thought leaders standing behind his work? Going from selling priceilosphical problems might seem odd, but David Birnbaum makes the connection work beautifully. Brinbaum’s greatest piece of work has to be Summa Metaphysica, a series of books that made me really challenge the way I see life’s obstacles. Reaching for potential is never a waste of time, and Birnbaum describes this journey better than just about anyone.

Can We ever truly understand the Purpose for Life?

There’s a topic that every self help book seems to talk about, and everyone else seems to be hungry to hear about: the purpose of life. Why are we here? What is the point of life when there is so much pain and suffering, so much misery and death? It’s a philosophical problem that isn’t new at all. Indeed, man has pondered his own existence for hundreds of thousands of years. We like to believe that we’re special, but we’re still following the same pattern that we’ve done all this time, but with a few changes.

One, we’re all looking for ways to acquire resources, build communities, and interact with people that are devoted to helping us protect our families. The family unit is an extension of the tribes of old. Instead of going with bigger groups in order to stay safe, we’ve drilled it down to just being a family. This change has had its share of pros and cons, but most people find this beneficial.

Purpose for Life

Purpose is defined by the person pondering it. For example, if you’ve spent your whole life trying to become an artist, you might find this worthwhile. But the scientist may not find the path of the artist very appealing, so they go their own way. This isn’t something that should be criticized in the sense that either path is better than the other. But as a society, we tend to reward the scientist and punish the artist, unless they find some way to stand out from all of the other artists trying to make a living.

Make sure that when you think of your purpose, you don’t just settle for linking your purpose to money. Many have traveled that path and found it very lacking. Purpose should be a lot more than that, because we’re meant to do more than just pay taxes and die at an early age. If you want to get meaning out of your life, you have to start looking at it from a different perspective.

For example, what would you like to do in order to leave your mark on the world? Do you want to build a business that has a deeply humanitarian element to it? Do you want to travel the world teaching English as a second language?  There are so many different ways to make a difference that it can be hard to see where you should begin.

What happens when you feel like you’re living your life’s purpose, but something does feel a bit empty? It’s time to go back to the drawing board. We suggest daily, weekly or even monthly journaling sessions where you get to review where you’re going, what you’ve been up to, and what setbacks you’ve experienced. There are things that are in your control, and things that aren’t in your control. The challenge is to find what you truly desire, and then take action. That’s right: you’re going to have to take action in order to change something. The trouble that we often run into as a culture is that we don’t encourage really changing anything. We encourage the consumption of information, but that never leads to happiness at all.

The truth is that you’re going to need to do a lot of personal inventory on the matter in order to find your purpose. Unfortunately, this isn’t a topic that anyone can give you hard answers on. But if you’re new to philosophy, it can be fun to think about all of the little variables in-between!

Inspirational People

Amilcar Cabral (1921-1973)

Cabral, the founder of the party for liberation of Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands, is one of the greatest of modern theoreticians of the African Revolution. His many theoretical advances included analyzing the role of intellectual/middle classes in liberation struggle. Cabral proposed that economically/socially entitled individuals could engage in the difficult process of “class suicide” and thus become true comrades in the struggle for human liberation. This led Cabral to develop a radical form of humanism that extended compassion towards the colonizer as well as the colonized. For these reasons Cabral rejected the use of terrorism against colonial civilian populations and argued for humane treatment of prisoners of war. Cabral emphasized the importance of developing critical thinking skills and literacy among his guerilla soldiers. He proposed establishing a form of radical democracy in Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands.

Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937)

Sardinian born activist, cultural critic, philosopher and revolutionary. He divided his time between union organizing and intellectual work. He was arrested by the fascist government of Italy in the 1920’s and developed many of his most important ideas while in prison. His most important concept is the idea of hegemony, which describes the roles of ideas in maintaining coercive power relationships. Gramsci theorized that in advanced capitalist countries the power structure primarily uses ideas to control the people. The ruling classes convince people to accept their chains willingly by making oppression seem like “common sense”. Gramsci believed that resistance movements needed to help the majority of the people develop critical consciousness of the actual situations that are adversely effecting their lives.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

One of the greatest literary and theatrical figures of the 20th Century, Bertolt Brecht, used the term “epic theater” to characterize his innovative dramatic theory. His new type of drama is non-Aristotelian–that is, his aim is not to purge the audience’s emotions but to awaken the spectators’ minds and communicate truth to them. In order to achieve this end, drama must not hypnotize or entrance the audience but must continually remind them that what they are watching is not real, but merely a representation, a vehicle for an idea or a fact. Brecht saw theater (and art generally) as having a crucial role in developing critical consciousness among the oppressed and marginalized.

Elizabeth Catlett-Mora (born 1915)

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1919, is a master sculptor, painter, printmaker, activist and warrior. Catlett-Mora has demonstrated a life-long commitment to fighting injustices and showing her support in the struggle for equality for the poor and oppressed. In the 1930’s, Catlett attended Howard University where she majored in design, but soon changed her major to painting. She was later introduced to sculpture at the University of Iowa, where she earned an M.F.A. As an artist and teacher, she has traveled throughout the United States and Mexico. She settled in Mexico and resumed work at the Taller de Grafica Popular with colleagues Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Francisci Mora, whom she wed in 1947. Catlett inspires as a visual artist who has seamlessly blended her commitments to activism and artmaking.

Exploring Logic as a Primary Topic

When it comes to philosophy topics, we need to definitely talk about logic. We’re not talking about simply “true/false” thinking, either. Logic is something that goes beyond that. Logic is basically the study of all of the core principles of proper reasoning. Basically, we need to look at the right way to reason things out, because it forms the bedrock of all conversations. Think about it: when’s the last time you wanted to get someone to truly believe your point of view? It probably wasn’t that long ago, right? Well, logic forms the basis of persuasive conversation. We use logic in order to get people to see our point of view. Debates happen all the time, and if we want to be seen as the “winner”, we have to be able to reason properly. Logic is how we do such a thing.

When we discuss the core of logic, what we are ultimately discussing is whether an argument is actually valid. For example:

If Mary is an artist, then Mary is poor.

Mary is an artist.

Hence, Mary is poor.

At this point, weíre still talking about structure rather than actual validity (obviously, there are some really wealthy artists, and some really poor ones!), but logic gets into these structures quite often. This type of structure is referred to as “modus ponens”, one of the simplest structures available. If X, then Y. X. Hence (or therefore), Y.

As you can see, we can take these structures and figure out how valid arguments are once we have some type of framework. Logic is necessary to study alongside philosophy, and the two topics actually go together.

What are some other structures that you see every day, even in popular media? As you study philosophy, these structures will become even more apparent.

Is It Worth It to Explore Philosophy?

Are you selecting a college major right now, or just want a really interesting minor? Do you find yourself in an odd place professionally, and need something to break up the tension? My friend, you have bought yourself a ticket to the world of philosophy without even realizing it. You see, philosophy is more than just a few people passing topics back and forth in a coffee shop. It is really a study of how we think and what our purpose in life really is. It’s the theory of knowledge, constructed around a series of conversations that have spanned thousands of years.

If you want some basic reasons to study philosophy, we’ve compiled a few:

1. There are no right answers

The fact that there aren’t any true correct answers in philosophy might sound like a reason to avoid it. However, this is the exact reason why philosophy majors are getting a second life throughout multiple industry sectors. Philosophy encourages the pursuit of new discoveries through looking at old information differently. If you’re someone that gets a rush at looking at all of the possibilities, philosophy will help you expand. Companies like people that can think “out of the box”, so to speak.

Philosophy

2. Logic is important

Everyone’s heard of logical fallacies, but philosophy encourages you to study them in depth. Once you do that, you’ll be able to read at a different level. People will not be able to easily persuade you with fluff and flattery because you’ll see through it. And you’ll recognize the infamous straw man attack, where people put up false information only to use it as a means to tear down an argument without really having any substance to back up their words.

3. References become more obvious

The more we study the past, the more we study where culture gets its new creations. There is truly nothing new under the sun, and philosophy really goes out of its way to expose this on an interesting level. You might want to go ahead and study a bit to see if you can get more out of philosophy than other subjects.

You might be surprised where philosophy takes you. Many people that are interested in law also take philosophy because it opens their minds to new pathways. But you don’t have to be in school in order to get something out of philosophy. If you’re in the business of talking to people and having to relate to them, then philosophy plays a role in this as well. Why not explore more topics today?