I have a bumper sticker on my office door at Baylor that reads, “I’ll be post feminist in the post patriarchy.” Actually, it is on my BIC door, not my philosophy door, which tells you just a bit about the BIC and the space that it creates for critical reflection. Just under the sticker, I placed pictures of Plato, Nietzsche, MLK, and Gandhi. All of these patriarchs are depicted, in some way, as gesturing upward toward the good. Their presence tells you a bit more about the BIC. We teach all of these patriarchs in our courses.
I’ve never questioned being a feminist. Post feminism is not an option for me. In fact, my most recent addition to the top of my BIC office door is a picture of me and Lenore Wright at the 2016 BIC Senior Recognition Banquet. But at the same time, reading these patriarchs made me a philosopher. To a degree, the philosophical patriarchs also made me a feminist. That will tell you still more about a BIC education and the revolutionary nature of an education based in a close reading of great texts. But they made me a philosopher first and foremost. They led me out of my own cave of experience.
I see philosophy as a radical activity in that it forces us to engage with the distinction between truth and the appearance of truth and in that sense it is always politically and socially relevant. Philosophy points us to what is real rather than what people all around us tell us to believe is real. However, the practice of academic philosophy often fails to engage the current social and political domains.
In fact, it often culls out the radical and the practical in favor of the abstract. I recently read an article by Kristie Dotson, “How is this paper philosophy?” (thanks to Karl Aho–Social World Prof–for mentioning it to me).
Dotson starts this article with a story about how a guidance counselor dissuaded her younger sister from a career in philosophy. The advisor said: “Philosophy- That is a white man’s game.”
Until recently, I’ve focused on the man part of the equation and not so much the white man part of the equation. As a white female, I see the “gender” distinction more than I recognize the “race” distinction. But, since the first of the year, I’ve been involved with a group my sister started in Austin. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about systemic racism in America. As a result, the white part of a white man’s game is on my mind.
Kristie Dotson’s article is fantastic. I encourage you to read it. One point she makes about contemporary philosophy is that it is a culture of justification. Philosophers typically ask people working outside of established philosophical domains of inquiry the question, “but how is this philosophy?”
Dotson suggests that philosophy, in so far as philosophy truly wants to be something other than a white man’s game, would be better served by cultivating a culture of praxis. She explains:
“A culture of praxis, I propose, has at least the following two components:
(1) Value placed on seeking issues and circumstances pertinent to our living,
where one maintains a healthy appreciation for the differing issues that will
emerge as pertinent among different populations and
(2) Recognition and encouragement of multiple canons and multiple ways of
understanding disciplinary validation (17).”
My philosophy life at Baylor and my BIC life at Baylor, are in many ways inseparable. When I was interviewing for a job here, way back in 1992, Robert Baird (World Cultures III icon) showed me the original blue print of the BIC. Back in those early days, they called it the OCC (Optional Core Curriculum). I said, “I’d love to teach in that program.”
As luck would have it, I got to teach in it from the beginning. I was there with the very first alpha class. As I reflect back on the benefits of BIC, I realize that we’ve been cultivating a culture of praxis. I hope each of you finds meaningful ways to continue practicing the praxis of the BIC.
Director, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core