University of London students demand that white philosophers be excised from curriculum

A caveat first: this article comes from The Daily Mail, and I haven’t been able to verify it from other news sources. On the other hand, I have verified the students’ demands to which it refers (see below). Further, the Mail article gives quotes from the likes of Sir Roger Scruton, which would have to have been fabricated by the paper. Finally, you’re not going to see many pieces like this published on progressive websites or even in the “mainstream” press. So make of it what you will.

What was reported is that some students at the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London have demanded that the works of many famous philosophers be dropped from the curriculum—or looked at more critically—because they are white. That apparently means that those philosophers are exponents of colonialism. From the Mail:

. . . .students at a University of London college are demanding that such seminal figures as Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell should be largely dropped from the curriculum simply because they are white.

These may be the names that underpin civilisation, yet the student union at the world-renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is insisting that when studying philosophy ‘the majority of philosophers on our courses’ should be from Africa and Asia.

The students say it is in order to ‘decolonise’ the ‘white institution’ that is their college.

Entitled ‘Decolonising SOAS: Confronting The White Institution’, the union’s statement of ‘educational priorities’ warns ‘white philosophers’ should be studied only ‘if required’, and even then their work should be taught solely from ‘a critical standpoint’: ‘For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so-called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.’

And yes, that statement does exist; it’s at the link below and this is a real excerpt (my emphasis in the text):

Decolonising SOAS: Confronting the White Institution:

Decolonising SOAS is a campaign that aims to address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university. We believe that SOAS should take a lead on such questions given its unique history within British colonialism. In light of the centenary and SOAS’ aims of curating a vision for itself for the next 100 years, this conversation is pivotal for its future direction.

Our aims are a continuation of the campaign last year:

  1. To hold events that will engage in a wider discussion about expressions of racial and economic inequality at the university, focussing on SOAS.

  2. To address histories of erasure prevalent in the curriculum with a particular focus on SOAS’ colonial origins and present alternative ways of knowing.

  3. To interrogate SOAS’ self-image as progressive and diverse.

  4. To use the centenary year as a point of intervention to discuss how the university must move forward and demand that we, as students of colour, are involved in the curriculum review process.

  5. To review 10 first year courses, working with academics to discuss points of revamp, reform and in some cases overhaul.

  6. To make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or it’s [sic] diaspora. SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).

  7. If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.

Now they don’t give any names of white philosophers, and of course there is some justification (point 6) for including a big dollop of Asian and African philosophers (Confucius comes to mind) given that the school deals with Oriental and African studies. What’s not clear is the nature of the courses that are taught: are they general philosophy courses, for instance?

What I object to is that special criticism must be leveled at white philosophers instead of philosophers of color, as well as the assumption that what white philosophers say must always be colored by colonialism. After all, some philosophy must surely be pigmentation-free, not all philosophers were part of the Enlightenment (e.g., the ancient Greeks), and a big part of philosophy deals with questions bearing on all humans, including ethics.

Finally, these are demands, not school policy, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be adopted.

There’s been some pushback, as reported by the Mail (again, I haven’t found these quotes independently):

Last night philosopher Sir Roger Scruton lambasted the union’s demand, saying: ‘This suggests ignorance and a determination not to overcome that ignorance. You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy. If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.’

The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University Sir Anthony Seldon said: ‘There is a real danger political correctness is getting out of control. We need to understand the world as it was and not to rewrite history as some might like it to have been.’

What we see here is that whiteness itself is taken to be a flaw, rather than particular views of white people. Are Peter Singer and John Rawls, for instance, polluted by colonialism? What bothers me the most is point 7, where the scrutiny of one’s views must be severe in inverse proportion to the darkness of their skin.  In philosophy courses it is, of course, essential to have a critical attitude, but is it not possible to evaluate the value of philosophical views without considering the ethnicity of those who propose them? And are African and Asian philosophers not going to be taught “from a critical standpoint”?

h/t: Barry

80 Comments

  1. Marc Aresteanu
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Make them read Thomas Sowell then. lol

  2. zl84841g
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    How do we know Plato was white? Honest question.

    • garthdaisy
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      True, it could just be the color of stone.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Before it was painted. (Most “classical” sculpture was painted and often clothed in antiquity ; it’s the Renaissance who forgot about this.)

    • eric
      Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Or was a product of the legacy of 15th century European colonialism! LOL.

  3. Richard Sanderson
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    “and present alternative ways of knowing.”

    We’ve heard that before.

    10 years ago, we thought it was right-wing religious conservatives who were the deniers.

    Now it is the regressive left and the SJWs.

    • Kirbmarc
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      The only difference between the two sides is which kind of woo they prefer, christian or postmodern.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Score!

        cr

    • josh
      Posted January 9, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Be careful, it’s still the right-wingers, it’s now *also* the regressive left.

  4. mfdempsey1946
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    If this statement has been reported accurately, it is, among other things, a piece of flat-out racism.

    • Marc Aresteanu
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Literally half my professors at McGill had to disparage old white men whenever they give lectures incorporating their ideas, quotes, discoveries, etc.

      Keep in mind I was in Psychology and Philosophy. But it’s the norm.

      People are intimidated by race activists in my part of the world.

      To me, this isn’t surprising at all.

      • Christopher
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I just can’t comprehend the obsession with race (or gender/sex) on both the left and right. At least on the right, though, their obsession is clear-cut and simple in its stupidity, but the left really bugs me. I mean, why the hell should I give a sh*t about the color of someone’s genitalia or with/to whom they apply them, before making any declarations of approval?

        • Marc Aresteanu
          Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          When being thoughtful garners you less social brownie points than pandering to the beliefs of people who claim to be representatives of victim groups… you end up with an obsession with sex and race, since those are the things to focus on if you’re attempting to find any evidence, no matter how flimsy, for discrimination based on sex and race.

          It’s the oppression olympics… and you can’t win if you don’t play.

        • eric
          Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Race and culture at least partially explain why some people were successful and others weren’t, why some ideas took hold and others didn’t, why some person got credit for a discovery while another didn’t, etc… If you want to know why Piltdown man survived peer review, you have to understand early British 20th century exceptionalism and the competition between nations at the time to be viewed as the source of humanity. If you want to know why Lisa Meitner isn’t as common a household name Marie Curie – even t though both had to deal with sexism – you have to understand she was a Jewish woman in Germany in the 1930s, rather than a Catholic/agnostic Polish woman in France in the late 1800s. If you want to know why European science produced numerous bogus studies about skull size, shape, and intelligence by race, you have to understand the color of their skin, and the racist background that they grew up with which created the confirmation bias necessary for those studies to be thought accurate and important.

          Once someone discovers a fact about nature or some insightful theory, yes its true we can generally drop consideration of their background and culture from the question of whether their fact is true or their theory useful. However, who gets to do the work and what work is accepted can very much be a question of background and culture. Moreover, race, genitalia, and culture can often explain why some wrong idea takes hold or leads investigators down the wrong path.

  5. garthdaisy
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    What was it MLK about content of character vs skin color? Though, as an American male, he is an imperialist, so…

  6. Christopher
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    A quote from Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast, #42, Racism and Violence in America, that I finally got around to listening to last night:

    “What I’m noticing now, in the last year or so, is that there is a culture of censorship in Identity Politics, a kind of addiction to being outraged, and a resort to outrage in place of reasoned argument, especially among young people, that is making it impossible to have productive conversations on important topics.”

    Of course, as this and so many other reports show, it is not solely an American problem, the Outraged Special Snowflake Syndrome is everywhere.

    • Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      So, this is surely a case of putting Decartes before the OSSS.

      /@

      • stephen
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Descartes. Close but no cigar! 😉

        • neil
          Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          All philosophy is just Kant, although it is for people who’ve found their Nietzsche in life…

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Did he put Descartes before the horse?

          • Marc Aresteanu
            Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

            LOL. I once ended a paper with “Don’t put Descartes before the horse” … my prof totally didn’t get it.

        • Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          Too hasty!

          /@

  7. GBJames
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    sub

  8. Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Just say No!

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Among the things that pushed my buttons here is the demand to be “involved in the curriculum review process.” I have heard a similar thing before, many years ago, from a student group in our department who wanted to be involved in deciding the course curriculum in their earning a degree. What?? The most polite answer one could give is that first you must earn the degree, and have some life experiences in the post-bacc world before you get to have a say in what is needed to earn a degree.

    • Rita
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The students who made that demand subsequently went on to question the right of their employers to enact conduct and dress codes at their workplaces.

      • kevin7alexander
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 6:11 am | Permalink

        Also, to do any actual work would be aiding the Corporatist conspiracy.

    • eric
      Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Don’t most colleges and universities have the equivalent of a ‘university degree’, which you get if you’ve taken enough credits but not fulfilled the specific requirements of any major? AFAIK the choice of what to take is always open to students.

  10. Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    Is the world going mad?

  11. jwthomas
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    At least part of the problem is that most students at the pre-college level have never received training in critical thinking. What we need (and will never get) is pre-college courses in public and private schools and a mandatory first year course
    for new college and university
    students in how to critique their own ways of thinking. Why is one of the most important skills you can ever learn not taught to everyone early in their lives?

  12. Damian
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    They don’t seem to teach philosophy at #SOAS anyway, only comparative religion:

    https://www.soas.ac.uk/religions-and-philosophies/staff/

  13. Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Guess I shouldn’t apply for a tenured position there?

  14. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Even without it being sourced from the Flail, I’d be pretty dubious of this. TTBOMK, SOAS is a school with a relatively small undergraduate body and a relatively high proportion of mature students in amongst the post-grads. This sort of idiocy I tend to associate with overgrown children.

  15. Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Surely, they don’t mean by “critical standpoint” some approach formulated by white male jewish oppressors? 😀

    Critical Race Theory is largely begind such ideas, which departs radically from conventional civil rights activism, and which is the defacto ideological core of Regressive Leftism and Social Justice Warriorism. A complication is only that most have never read anything of Bell, Delgado, Crenshaw, but have assumed their views in a vulgar form of cultural osmosis.

    CRT subsumed radical feminism, and antiracism. It is anti-enlightenment, and uses (misunderstood) intersectionality as a connector plus a strong dose of Freud-Marxian infused postmodernism (Derrida, Foucault, Lacan). The effect is that they believe races are socially constructed yet important and must be acknowledged at any time (“check your privilege”). That makes proponents a mirror image of racists and racialists who don’t differ at all in their outlook, only in the epistomoly (race realists argue biology, they argue culture, but in each cases race is “real” and very important).

    Though to such people, skin colour alone is not the deciding factor. They are happy to include ideological correct oppressors, and consider detractors as race or gender traitors. That, too, follows from their ideology (the latter have false conciousness, internalized oppression etc).

  16. Damian
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Incredibly, while calling white people “devils”, the student responsible is accusing the media (e.g. The Independent) of racism and Islamophobia for reporting on this!

  17. dd
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    What the left does is to transpose Christian dogma onto a secular domain.

    So, original sin, which Christianity teaches is a mark against all people, the left has transposed into a mark against only white people, and especially straight male ones.

    Redemption lies at the hand of the oppressed.

    This is why the notion of the “indigenous” is so critical, even if not true. Because what the indigenous represent is a kind of sinless Adams and Eve in contrast to evil white Europeans.

    Societies may be able to live without divinities, i doubt it, but they sure can’t live without religion. Even if that religion is secular fundamentalism

    • Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      By the way, in London, where the school in question is located, indigenous people are white.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Only on bath night. 🙂

        (Oh, was that a slur on Cockneys? They’ll live…)

        cr

  18. David Duncan
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I think SOAS is beyond redemption, so the complainants should withdraw and form their own or move to another institution where they can have as much ideological purity as they want without nasty old white men like Kant, Descartes and the prince of darkness himself – Charles Darwin.

    /sarcasm off

  19. Gary
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Worth bearing in mind Jerry:
    “University of London” is not an actual university. It’s a collective arrangement between various universities in London that’s based on sharing resources and various services for students.
    That’s only relevant because people might read this thinking it’s one of London’s most reputable universities doing it. It’s not. It’s one of the wacky irrelevant ones.
    They use the term “University of London” to make themselves seem more prestigious.
    Whereas LSE and Imperial (the actual prestigious ones) almost never told you they were part of University of London when I studied there. (and I think Imperial has since ditched the organisation)

    • Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Whereas LSE and Imperial (the actual prestigious ones) …

      ZOMG! You mean, unlike UCL ??? 🙂

  20. veroxitatis
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    There seems no end to this madness and its seepage into academia from conspiracy and alt. history sites. More worryingly however it has a good deal in common with the growth of “safe spaces” and the like. Only a few days ago I read an article in the Times about Glasgow University”s Faculty of Divinity which intends to excuse theology students who may find references to the crucifixion of JC “unsettling”. As one commentator said – If they find that a problems God knows what they’ll make of the Apocalypse!

    • Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      “…theology students who may find references to the crucifixion of JC “unsettling”…”

      Theology students unsettled by references to crucifixion are a fine addition to archaeology students triggered by the sight of bones!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      This is priceless.

  21. BJ
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Remember when Dr. King said we should judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin?

    Boy, those were the days…

    Now we see article (seriously, I saw an article about what I’m about to describe) decrying black people who marry or date what people, calling them traitors and saying “we lost another one”; we see students demanding segregated dorms and intellectual spaces; We watch as groups demand that those of a certain race not be included in the curriculum; we see people saying minority groups can’t feel safe around those not of their ethnicity.

    The far left has actually regressed to promoting segregation. What a world.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. And such is the state of identity politics and political infighting within ‘the Left’ that each person will have their own dormitory and intellectual space. Each will have their own cafeteria for fear of encountering food that might cause offence, and each will have their own medical centres in case they risk being treated by non-worldview compliant medecine or practices.

      • BJ
        Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        And in case the doctor fatphobically tells them that they should lose weight. Doctors shouldn’t comment on your weight! It’s fatphobic!

      • eric
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

        In my day we called that “getting an apartment off-campus.”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      “decrying black people who marry or date what people”

      I think you meant ‘white people’ before autocorrect sabotaged you?

      Of course, what is ‘black’ and what is ‘white’ is sometimes hard to tell. They’d really have to set up a board to determine who is black, who is white, and who is colored, don’t you think?

      cr

      • BJ
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 4:57 am | Permalink

        Haha, yes, I did mean white.

        Of course the position makes no sense. In the minds of the people I’m discussing, “black” simply means black skin. These articles even make a point of saying that they don’t like when those of darker black skin marry or date people with lighter black skin.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Whatever happened to Blue Mink’s Melting Pot? Is it about to be banned now?

  22. Posted January 8, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I thought the point was NOT to judge intellectual achievement or relevancy by skin color or geography?

    Carl Kruse

  23. Vaal
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    So all this effort over time to make things not about “race”…

    …only to have a burgeoning SJ culture wanting to make everything about “race.”

    Sigh.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Bit of a waste of time really, wasn’t it? 😦

      cr

  24. Posted January 8, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    The students electing to attend this school have already shown their bias by selecting it. Interesting that they should pay so much money to reinforce their ignorance. Religion or philosophy can’t be studied appropriately without the student becoming familiar with (as much as possible)the entire range of knowledge and the history associated with the subject development. Country of origin and skin color is of comparatively little importance. Can you imagine an intelligent discussion by these partially educated people? They will only be able to talk to each other.

  25. Posted January 8, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    These demands are really out of control and constitute a form of reverse racism. There are a lot of attempts to undermine philosophy because of its lack of diversity. It’s true that it hasn’t been very diverse over the course of its history. But you would expect to see bias more in political views, not metaphysical views or epistemological views. How are Kant’s views on the nature of space and time tinged by his whiteness? The same questions arise for Heidegger and Naziism. Should we reject Heidegger’s views on the structure of consciousness because he was a Nazi?

    • Posted January 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Arguably yes, in the latter case. Fritsche’s study of _Being and Time_ (which many of us agree with, but he puts it in book form) shows that Heidegger’s magnum opus is, in fact, a piece of the reactionary right.

      (I also don’t see any real analysis of consciousness in B&T either.)

      Of course, this is a *conclusion*, and shouldn’t prevent someone from *studying* it, so long as they realize the context. Phil Buckley at McGill, last I checked, does actually show (some of?) _Triumph of the Will_ in classes on Heidegger.

      In fact, this generalizes: I dare say that all of this is a *ridiculous* overreaction to the fact that almost all the “greats” (I do *not* include Heidegger in that, but be that as it may) were in fact colonialist, sexist, etc. to varying degrees. I think it is important to mention that in class. But it is also important to make the “greats human” in other ways: Descartes’ child, for one thing, might well be part of the puzzle on why he tried to figure out how to live to 100 (and failed, of course).

      • Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Heidegger doesn’t talk about consciousness? What about fundamental structures of consciousness like being-in-the-world and being-with-others?

        • Damian
          Posted January 11, 2017 at 3:20 am | Permalink

          Heidegger explicitly states, many times, that Dasein is *not* Bewusstsein. That’s the whole point of his newfangled vocabulary. One could argue that he means basically the same thing at the end of the day (whatever that is), but Heidegger and Heideggerians would say it’s a misinterpretation. More than a bit of tangential this, though.

  26. somer
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a virulent disease to the humanities.

  27. Tom
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Just another crass attempt to create a history that suits them. After all it makes it easier to plagiarise the ideas of past philosophers.

  28. stephajl
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    sub

  29. Dominic
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it appropriate for students to decide the course of study. If they don’t like it, they are at liberty to study elsewhere!

  30. Bob
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
    Who was very rarely stable
    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
    Who could think you under the table

    David Hume could out-consume
    Schopenhauer and Hegel
    And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
    Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel

    There’s nothing Nietzche couldn’t teach ya
    ‘Bout the raising of the wrist
    Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed

    John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
    On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill
    Plato, they say, could stick it away
    Half a crate of whiskey every day

    Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle
    Hobbes was fond of his dram
    And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart
    “I drink, therefore I am”

    Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed
    A lovely little thinker
    But a bugger when he’s pissed

    Songwriters
    CHAPMAN, GRAHAM / CLEESE, JOHN / GILLIAM, TERRY / IDLE, ERIC / JONES, TERRY / PALIN, MICHAEL EDWARD

    Published by
    Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

    Read more: Monty Python – The Philosophers Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  31. eric
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure I’m interpreting their call right, so I’m going to assess it three different ways and opine that one is quite reasonable, one is not, and the other sits somewhere in the middle.

    Possibility 1: SOAS currently has a list of Philosophy department courses they recommend their students take. The students want the school to update the list, changing out course recommendations for historical European philosophers (e.g. Descartes) for OA philosophers (e.g. Confucius). Sort of like an Asian Studies major program telling their students that from now on they need to take Philosophy 101 instead of 100. No problem. That’s a very reasonable request.

    Possibility 2: SOAS students want the philosophy department to change the course curriculum for their historical European philosopher courses, to increase a discussion of the cultural background in which they wrote. I think this is a fair comment for a student to voice, and hopefully the professors will consider it, but IMO if this is parsed as a demand, its unreasonable. The philosophy professor and the department are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to curriculum for their courses; they will decide what is most relevant to include in a course about (for example) Descartes, not the students. Moreover, SOAS students won’t be the only ones taking philosophy courses, so it is unreasonable for them to demand another department change their courses to cater to SOAS’ focus.

    Possibility 3: SOAS students are demanding that the philosophy department drop some courses on European philosophers in favor of courses on philosophers they feel are more important for their major. This is quite unreasonable. I think the most pithy response to such a request would be: if SOAS wants a course on Confucius for their students, then SOAS should be willing to shell out the departmental funds and effort to offer the course.

    • Damian
      Posted January 9, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      No, I’ve looked into it and it’s nothing remotely as reasonable as any of your three possibilities. SOAS, it turns out, doesn’t even have a philosophy department in which they teach the history of Western philosophy, or contemporary academic philosophy of any kind. Rather they have a “Religions and Philosophies” department in which they teach about Eastern and African religions:

      https://www.soas.ac.uk/religions-and-philosophies/staff/

      I contacted Ali Habib, the President of the SOAS Student Union, who is responsible for the stuff about excluding white philosophers from the curriculum, and it was obvious that he hadn’t even bothered to check if “white philosophers” were being taught at the university in the first place. I asked him which Enlightenment philosophers he had in mind, and how he thought their work was influenced by the context of colonialism, and it was clear that he didn’t have a clue about either the history or the philosophers (many of whom were fervent anti-colonialists, and argued for the end of it, just as they were instrumental in ending slavery: see e.g. Jonathan Israel’s four massive 1000-page tomes on the Radical Enlightenment).

      Ali Habib has tried to turn this into a matter of the “devils” in the media targeting him because he’s black and a Muslim. In other words, Ali Habib, the President of a prominent London university’s student union, suggests white philosophers should be taken out of the university curriculum, the media reports this (as you’d expect them to), and he claims he’s a victim of media racism and Islamophobia. It beggars belief! Moreover, he seems to have quite a lot of support from presidents of other UK student unions.

      One student, Tom Ana, did try to explain things to me: “my Arabic text book was written by a Welsh man”, he said, as this were in itself a crime against humanity. He didn’t respond when I asked him why this was a problem.

      He did add this: “every single one of the people on my Anthropology reading list (except one) is white”. So, quite reasonably, I asked him this:

      “So, which “non-white” anthropologists do you think should have been included on your reading list and why?”

      His response was as follows:

      “hey buddy it’s not just about having more names, it’s about undoing a self-replicating colonialist education system by challenging the narratives it presents by centring the voices of marginalised (especially non-white) groups – who’s contribution to academia is seen as less valuable, which in turn adds to racist notions that white Western people are more intelligent, important, etc.”

      I replied:

      “You’ve changed topic. Which non-white anthropologists do you think should have been included on your reading list and why?”

      No reply, so I asked again, addressing what he’d said:

      “Which anthropologists are you talking about exactly when you say their academic contributions are seen as less valuable?”

      And again:

      You claim their work is being undervalued because of the “self-replicating colonialist education system”, so who are they?

      He eventually replied with this:

      “you seem to be avoiding my point. But here’s some reading I hope you get round to some day:

      http://www.skindeepmag.com/online-articles/back-to-basics-eurocentric/

      I read it and replied again:

      “Okay, I’ve read it. Now, you said your reading list should include more non-white authors. Who should it include and why?”

      No answer.

      Blatantly, although this student was complaining that he didn’t have enough non-white anthropologists on his reading list, he couldn’t name a single non-white anthropologist! Having a degree in social anthropology myself, I can tell you that anthropologists tend to be *very* anti-colonialist, and know a great deal about non-Western cultures (which is what they devote their lives to studying), but for students like this that’s no good enough: the authors and lecturers must be “non-white” or the education system itself is dismissed as an institutionally racist “self-replicating colonialist enterprise” which must be “decolonialised” by excluding white authors.

      In short, these students are breathtakingly ignorant imbeciles: in the case of SOAS, imbeciles from extremely privileged, affluent backgrounds, whose parents pay about £50,000 for them to study there. (And that’s just the tuition fees! Living in London is *horrendously* expensive.) But instead of recognising their own privilege, they manage to brainwash themselves, and one another, into believing that, if academics in the UK are mainly “white”, this must be because the racist, colonialist education system systematically oppresses “non-white voices”. Ask them for reasons and evidence to back up such claims and you’ll get the kind of badly written gibberish quoted above. It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed, but Ali Habib is far from being the only such student to become president of a prominent student union in the UK: the President of the British National Union of Students (NUS), Malia Bouattia, is well-known for her racism (anti-Semitism especially) and for opposing an NUS motion against ISIS on the grounds that it was “Islamophobic”.

      The truth is that most students in the UK just don’t get involved in student union politics, precisely because it is dominated by these kinds of people, and don’t vote in the NUS elections. The likes of Ali Habib and Malia Bouattia, thankfully, by no means represent the majority of British students. It is admittedly worrying, however, that other students can apparently not be bothered to oppose them, and that many other students just go along with this sort of thing in order to fit in and not be seen as racists. The horrible irony, of course, is that it is the likes of Ali Habib and Malia Bouattia who are the racists — a charge they deny on the grounds that “only white people can be racist” (a veritable shibboleth of the regressive Left).

      • eric
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

        SOAS, it turns out, doesn’t even have a philosophy department in which they teach the history of Western philosophy, or contemporary academic philosophy of any kind.

        Gary @17 noted that the UOL is really a conglomeration of universities that share resources. Could the complaint be about the sort of classes offered by other schools that the SOAS students can access through sharing arrangements? I’m just curious, I have no idea whether this is true or not.

        One student, Tom Ana, did try to explain things to me: “my Arabic text book was written by a Welsh man”, he said

        LOL yes that’s silly. Particularly given the far left’s focus on the student’s own identity. If you’re teaching Arabic to welsh kids, wouldn’t the far left postmodernist thing to do be to demand the textbook be written by a welsh person? 🙂

        Blatantly, although this student was complaining that he didn’t have enough non-white anthropologists on his reading list, he couldn’t name a single non-white anthropologist!

        I don’t necessarily see this as the fundamental flaw in his argument that you do. I think its perfectly reasonable for a student to suspect coverage of his subject is biased – and complain about it – without being able to cite the names of experts and important figures in the field who have been overlooked. After all, he’s taking the class to learn who the experts are and what they said; if he already knew that, he wouldn’t need the class.

        Having said that, he sure would’ve done better to just be up front and honest about that point. You’re absolutely right that he was trying to dodge your question. He would’ve been much better off just being up front about not knowing any names. This sort of answer to your question, IMO, would’ve been just fine: “I don’t know who they might be, but just as there were women making important, unrecognized contributions to many academic fields in our sexist past, I think its reasonable to expect there have also been minority researchers making important contributions without going recognized. Don’t you? Or do you really believe that all the anthropologists in my book are white because only white people made major contributions to anthropology?”

        • Damian
          Posted January 9, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          Regarding the suggestion that they’re talking about philosophy departments other than SOAS, no, it’s not plausible: the context makes it clear if you look at it. Moreover, if they were arguing that “white” philosophers should be excluded from other universities too, that would would make the thing far worse: it only has any semblance of plausibility because it’s the School of Oriental and African Studies. As noted, this Co-President of the didn’t even bother to find out if there was a philosophy department in which “white” philosophers are taught in the first place. And there isn’t. There isn’t even a philosophy department.

          Regarding the question you pose on the student’s behalf: “I think its reasonable to expect there have also been minority researchers making important contributions without going recognized. Don’t you?” In short, no I don’t. The idea that there are academics making important contributions to anthropology or biology or physics or geology or mathematics or philosophy — any discipline — who are going unrecognised because they’re “non-white” is completely unfounded. Moreover, did the student really google the names of all the authors in his course to find out what they looked like in order to determine what “race” they belong to? I very much doubt it. If he didn’t, he doesn’t know that they’re all “white”; if he did, on the other hand, he’s just a racist. It’s completely irrelevant what the ethnicity of the person doing the research happens to be, and the idea that one should include authors on readings lists on the basis of racial quotas rather than simply the quality of the work is just abhorrent racism itself. I did not know nor care what the authors I was reading looked like. It would simply never have occurred to me to look them up online to see what their ethnic background is. Only racists do that sort of thing.

          • eric
            Posted January 9, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            The idea that there are academics making important contributions to anthropology or biology or physics or geology or mathematics or philosophy — any discipline — who are going unrecognised because they’re “non-white” is completely unfounded.

            So, without googling, tell me what you know of Benjamin Banneker. Have you even heard of him?

            • Damian
              Posted January 10, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

              Yes, I had heard of him, and all I remember about him was that he’s famous for being an 18th century inventor of almanacs and clocks. I’ve also heard of,and remember some vague things about, George Washington Carver, Granville Woods, Elijah McCoy and Lewis Howard Latimer. Why have I heard of these people? Quite simply, because they were black/African American, and they are often cited by people who want to make points about black/African American contributions to science and technology. Would I have heard about them if they were white? I doubt it. Why? Because there are hundreds of scientists, inventors and the like who made FAR more important contributions than those mentioned above, yet about whom even most educated people know nothing, even if they have heard of their names. Here’s a list of some of the more famous. Without googling, what do you know about them? Have you even heard of them?:

              Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
              Jean le Rond d’Alembert
              John Harrison
              Thomas Bayes
              Leonhard Euler
              George Cayley
              Andre-Marie Ampere
              Carl Linnaeus
              Antoine Lavoisier
              Humphry Davy
              Hans Christian Oersted
              Theodor Schwann
              Rudolf Clausius
              Thomas Young
              Hermann von Helmholtz
              Emil du Bois-Reymond
              Jules Henri Poincaré
              James Clerk Maxwell
              Ludwig Boltzmann
              William Thomson
              J.J. Thomson
              Nikola Tesla
              Max Planck
              Ronald Aylmer Fisher
              Josiah Willard Gibbs
              Paul Dirac
              John von Neumann

              Even if you have heard of all or most of these, and know what they contributed to science, how many do you think would be familiar to most people? I could also list many hundreds more who made far more important contributions than Bannaker et al. but who are far less famous than they are.

              So, on the contrary, it seems to me that Bannaker et al. are *more* famous than their contributions alone suggest they should be, precisely *because* they black/African American.

              For anyone who knows about the history of the past 500 years, that there would be relatively few black scientists, inventors etc. is really not very surprising. But do I think the likes of Bannaker have been marginalised because they are black? No, I really don’t.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 9, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          ” do you really believe that all the anthropologists in my book are white because only white people made major contributions to anthropology?”

          I would suspect that is exactly the case. Until recently i.e. a few decades ago, how many black anthropologists were there? (I don’t know the answer but I’ll bet the number was near-zero).

          It’s a bit like a physics 101 student demanding that only discoveries made by black physicists be covered…

          cr

      • eric
        Posted January 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        The truth is that most students in the UK just don’t get involved in student union politics, precisely because it is dominated by these kinds of people, and don’t vote in the NUS elections. The likes of Ali Habib and Malia Bouattia, thankfully, by no means represent the majority of British students.

        I think the same is somewhat true in the US; student government tends to select for people who are strongly motivated by some cause. The ones who don’t think that cause (or another cause) is worth their time and effort, don’t go into student politics.

  32. Posted January 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Should we anticipate heads exploding if someone realizes the great so-called “Arab” (i.e., the great philosophers writing in Arabic c.800-1200 CE) philosophers were strongly influenced by Aristotle?

    (Of course, some of them were only *writers* in Arabic, and needless to say that some weren’t Muslim: Christians, Jews and non-traditionally religious are all present too.)

  33. Mike
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I take anything in the Daily Shite with an enormous pinch of Salt, having said that. this whole thing vis a vis Students dictating the Curriculum is getting out of hand, if it carries on they will only listen to arguments they agree with, and counter arguments will not be heard or disceussed, and thats not good.

  34. Nick
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t in the Daily Mail, but the Mail on Sunday. Same group, same owner and same political slant, but different editor, journalists and, frankly, standards.


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