Philosophical Mutations: reflecting on our ongoing conversation

After this most recent round of posts, Educated Ice and I wanted to synthesize our ideas and identify remaining questions. In part we are doing this because we are presenting some of this work at an upcoming conference/workshop. Instead of presenting a paper for others to read, we are presenting our fellow participants with this blog. In part we are doing this as an attempt to disrupt some of the habits and implicit knowledges congealed in philosophy’s conventional material practices. In other words, we want to try to perform one of the strategies we discuss, conceptually, in our writing. So, philosophers, if this feels a bit inconvenient and discomforting, rest assured that this is not a bug but a feature (at least from our perspective).

Because the point of both this blogging and the workshop is developing and discussing ideas, we’ve chosen to focus our thought in the form of questions, not arguments. So, after listing the posts we’re referring to here, there is a list of open and ongoing questions that we would like to discuss, both here and at the conference.

Posts (in chronological order)

  1. Philosophical Love and Theft

  2. The Demographic Problem and the Divide

  3. Philosophical Exceptionalism and White Supremacy

  4. On Slice

  5. Style and Substance

  6. Dateless Wonder

  7. On Materiality and Medium

  8. Disjointed Responses to Educated Ice

  9. Notes on Style

  10. The “event of pluralism”

  11. Denken ist (Weiß)männersache

  12. Philosophical Exceptionalism and the Politics of Respectability (II)

  13. Epistemic Disobedience

  14. Respectability, Epistemic Disobedience, and Methodological Dereliction

Questions (in no particular order):

  1. Who can be trusted to reproduce philosophy faithfully? Who can be included without changing the terms, without radically redefining philosophy in either style or substance, either in theory or in practice? Who can we trust to use the hammer as a hammer, and not use it as a crowbar, or bring in other things – needle and thread, glue guns and sequins?”

  2. Why does “philosophy” (as in, the disciplinary mainstreams, on both sides of the A/C divide, in mainstream aesthetics, mainstream feminism, etc.) tend to choose respectability politics rather than, say, a more critical politics? In other words, why didn’t philosophy go with all the other humanities disciplines in the 80s and 90s and become more diverse, both in practitioners and practice? Why does philosophy seem to choose respectability time and time again?

  3. How do respectability politics structure current conversations and programs about:

    1. overcoming the analytic/continental divide?

    2. diversity?

  4. Or, to rephrase 3, how are old-school (i.e., liberal) politics of philosophical respectability upgraded to neoliberal politics of philosophical, well, “pluralism,” maybe? How, in the discipline of philosophy, does “respectability” (e.g., the old-school A/C divide, the philosophical exceptionalism that rejects the “theory wars”) mutate into “good mixing”?

    1. How is the biopolitically “healthy” discipline reproduced? How is this biopolitical health of philosophy purchased by the constitutive exclusion of, perhaps, disobedient feminists, and people of color? how do we theorize the idea that “the demographic problem is connected to the analytic/continental split, but that demographics are the central mechanism by which people distinguish between good and bad pluralism”?

      1. As EI argues: “Because we ought to remember that women have always been a part of philosophy, from Aspasia on down, although most frequently as its mirror – as again Irigaray might argue. Insofar as women can be trusted to faithfully reproduce philosophy, then they can be included. Inclusion then operates on a colonial or assimilationist model. The “health” of philosophy is then assured – in terms of both style and substance, in terms of representation and in terms of reproduction. Thus does philosophy maintain its exceptionalism with regard to the rest of the humanities, with proper deference to science, free of “scolds” and “charlatans,” of “boutique” courses and too much “theory.” Here, however, a strange confluence between style and substance, or between representation and practice, occurs: too many people of color, as you point out, is evidence of the unhealth of philosophy, of bad mixing [with or without respect to the kind of philosophy being practiced by these bodies?].”

  5. How do we reproduce ourselves? That is, how do we teach and practice philosophy in ways that transform “philosophy” rather than guarantee its stable continuity into the future?

    1. For an example of such transformative practice, read Robin D.G. Kelley’s discussion of Angela Davis’s philosophy lecture at UCLA.

    2. How do we make failure at “philosophy” legible to the university as “success”? How can we do this in ways that doesn’t further burden already overburdened minority philosophers (who do, for example, the service work building institutions that provide such legibility)?

  6. How do the material practices of “doing philosophy” naturalize specific implicit knowledges as transparently “philosophical”?

    1. What media? What knowledge?

    2. How can we use diverse media practices to disrupt these implicit knowledges? And how do we do so in ways that are legible to hiring and tenure committees?

  7. It seems like conversations about “diverse practices and practitioners” generally highlight (a) continental philosophy and (b) white women/white feminism.

    1. Why is it that “So far, however, philosophy seems less able to reproduce itself faithfully in the latter case [including philosophers of color] than in the former [including white women]”?

  8. To transform philosophy (i.e., to fail at “philosophy”) yet survive institutionally and personally (hey, I *need* my paycheck), we need to talk out of both sides of our mouth (that is, we say one thing to power so we survive, and another thing to ourselves, also so we survive). Or, like Beyonce, we need to play at the respectability game while simultaneously subverting it. As Regina Bradley argues in that linked article, Beyonce uses diverse material practices to perform that doubleness (visual respectability vs. sonic ratchet). Can Beyonce’s strategy translate to philosophy?

  9. What is ‘pluralism’? How is it currently understood, and how can we formulate an understanding of pluralism that forefronts the practice that feminist philosophers and critical philosophers of race have been doing across the ‘divide’ for many years now?

  10. In what ways can we turn the tools of philosophy on the discipline and the practice of philosophy itself? Which tools? Which practices?