An Interview with Alexus McLeod

Alexus Mcleod, Professor of Philosophy and Asian/Asian-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, is the new editor of The Philosophical Forum. Alexus’s research interests are in comparative and global philosophy broadly. His professional life has been dedicated to building bridges across philosophical traditions. In this interview, we ask Alexus about the value of a global approach to philosophy and what kinds of papers and issues he is interested in as editor. We’re thrilled that he will continue The Philosophical Forum’s distinctive legacy as a forum—a meeting place where ideas from across the globe are debated, exchanged, and enriched through open dialogue.

New Editor Interview

Your research interests cover a lot of ground—from the philosophies of early China and Mesoamerica to West African, classical Indian, and medieval Islamic thought. Is there a common thread linking your various interests? What are the benefits of taking a more global approach to philosophy?

There are many benefits of a global approach. Perhaps first among them is that we come to a better understanding of philosophy following this approach, because like language, literature, history, science, religion, and every other human intellectual pursuit, it is a global activity. While philosophy happens in some of the same patterns across the world and throughout history, no philosophical tradition is exactly the same, and in each we find unique insights, questions, and viewpoints on the world. Just as it would be fruitless to try to understand the nature of human language with an understanding of only one or two languages in a single region and ignoring all the rest (something I’ve sometimes seen!), or the nature of religion by looking only at Protestant Christianity, it’s hopeless to try to understand the nature of philosophy if we neglect the philosophy of most of the world.

This is not meant to be a broadside against “Western” traditions and those who study and work within them specifically. While particular Western modes of doing philosophy are dominant (often almost to the exclusion of everything else) in philosophy departments in the Anglo-American West, it would be just as objectionable to focus on, say, Chinese Philosophy to the exclusion of everything else, or Islamic Philosophy to the exclusion of everything else. There are of course cultural chauvinists in every tradition, even though due to the cultural and political residue of the European colonial projects that shaped the modern world, most philosophers outside the West know far more about Western Philosophy than Western philosophers tend to know about other global traditions. Because “philosophy” itself has been so thoroughly associated with and promoted as (by its practitioners and others) a particular kind of European-derived project, we most often see departments of philosophy across the world, even ones in which non-European traditions are the focus, taking Europe and Western Philosophy as a central core. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an academic philosophy department anywhere in the world that does not have at least some faculty members working on issues and areas connected to either contemporary Western traditions or historical scholarship of European and American Philosophy. I’ve seen many, on the other hand (especially at home in the USA) without a single faculty member working on anything connected to philosophical traditions outside of the “Western” world, either contemporary or historical.

We, philosophers in the Western academy, are simply not talking to the world for the most part, outside of the European and Anglo-American world. Particularly not the so-called “global south”. And we’re not talking to them even when they are engaged in the same projects! As I mentioned above, it turns out that many of the philosophers in China, India, Ghana, Peru, and elsewhere are working within the same philosophical tradition as many philosophers in the US and UK. There are analytic philosophers and Continental philosophers in the Western style throughout the world. It’s difficult to find any philosophy department anywhere without at least one person working in these areas. Still, there is little engagement between philosophers working in the English-speaking “West” and their counterparts in other parts of the world. And there is little good reason for this. Even our general category of this “West” hides a problem. Which nations do we include in the “English speaking world” for purposes of defining the West? USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Look the famous (or infamous?) Philosophical Gourmet Report. It ranks programs in the “English speaking world” in just these regions. But what of Caribbean nations? Various nations throughout Africa? India? English is the primary and native language of many Caribbean nations, for example, and the official and most common language of many African nations. Not so of Quebec. Yet the latter gets somehow included in “English speaking world,” while the former do not. And even in nations where English is not the official or most common language, language is still no barrier, as most people working on analytic philosophy outside the US can understand and work in English. It would be pretty tough, after all, to engage with a tradition whose major works one could not read due to not understanding the language in which they’re written.

I suspect that the reason for the lack of global interaction is the same as the reason for the general lack of focus on global philosophical traditions outside of the Western categories of analytic and Continental philosophy. Let me be frank here: racism. This is not largely (although it sometimes is) individual racism from philosophers, but rather the racism inherent in the conception of philosophy we’ve inherited. Just as institutional racism exists in the structures of American society, a cultural chauvinism grounded in racism exists in the conception of philosophy dominant in the West. Through practical inertia, we end up duplicating what we’ve been handed down by our chauvinistic and often racist intellectual forebears, even if we have no intention to be racist. At some point we’ve got to reckon with the fact that philosophy in the US (or that awkward “English speaking world” that has race built into it as well) is as it is because those who passed it down to us were racist, and engaged in an inherently racist project that explicitly excluded non-European people (and even particular categories of European people). We’re never going to improve philosophy until we come to grips with this racist past, understand the ways it clearly manifests itself in the present through our continuation of past patterns, and actively work to restructure the ways we think about what philosophy is and does.

To return to my own focus and the “common thread” linking my various projects—I think this common thread is simply my desire to talk to the world, to learn from the world, to understand at least some of the vast wealth of ideas that are falling largely on deaf ears in professional philosophy in the West. Philosophical insights and advancement, like all other kinds, are gained through broad interaction and discussion. Even though philosophers like to think of our field as making advancements through the contributions of individual geniuses creating brilliant new ideas from the armchair, this is a myth, and an insidious one at that. New ideas form through broad interaction with new people, situations, cultures, etc. This is just how the human mind works. Even the most powerful computer in the world can only do a single thing when the only program you’re running on it is a one line command in BASIC. We can only find new solutions, formulate new questions, and consider new ideas when we are exposed to a wide variety of people and things. It’s exciting to me to discover these new things (or things new to me at least!).

How do you see The Philosophical Forum fitting in to the wider philosophy community?

I hope to see The Philosophical Forum become a place for exploration of philosophical ideas unbounded by tradition, region, culture, or period of time. We are of course necessarily somewhat limited, in that we publish in English and thus miss out on philosophy as it’s done in other languages, but I also hope to include translation of work from other languages as well. I intend for The Philosophical Forum to be a true meeting place for philosophy as done in the broadest possible sense. The Forum will not be limited only to so-called analytic or Continental philosophy, but open to philosophy in all the ways is being done both at home and around the world.

The great challenge of our day in this field, I think, is to refine our conception of what the relevant philosophical questions are, as well as how to answer them, by looking to the variety of different philosophical discussions going on around the world and throughout history. While language is sometimes a limitation, it is less often so than we may think. An enormous amount of global philosophy has been translated into English, especially many of the important works from history. It’s also the case that much of the philosophy neglected in the West is being done in English, which is at least as much of a lingua franca in contemporary philosophy as it is in business. And there are numerous journals and series today dedicated to translating contemporary philosophical work from numerous languages into English. We live in a time particularly well-suited to the exploration of global philosophy, given the wealth of research available to us and the ease of communication across the world. With the resources and means for interaction at our fingertips, it is foolish not to make use of them. We can see that throughout history, periods of development, high culture, and the generation of new knowledge were always facilitated by the interaction between different people. The Islamic Golden Age, which gave us the innovations in science, mathematics, and medicine that made much of the modern world possible, resulted from the cross-fertilization of intellectual traditions throughout the area that came under the influence of early Islam, from Spain and North Africa through Persia and India. Philosophers and intellectuals in major centers such as Baghdad had access to a wide range of thought and traditions, combining the ideas of the ancient Greeks with those of Manicheanism, Syriac Christianity, Indian thought, and others. The Italian Renaissance was built through the development of both power and culture through eastern trade routes of the city-states of the peninsula, exposing people of these states to knowledge from throughout the Mediterranean and further east, which they could then synthesize in new ways. Flowering of new philosophical thought and new solutions to problems always accompanies the meeting of people, cultures, traditions. New ideas do not come from nowhere, created ex nihilo within an enclosed space. And new ways of thinking can only be generated by exposure to new environments.

The aim of The Philosophical Forum, since its beginning, has been to serve as a place for dialogue between numerous strands or traditions of the overarching philosophical project. In the past, this project was focused on bridging analytic and Continental philosophical traditions. In my leadership of the journal, I aim to move toward a more global approach. We will look to bridge the traditions of the West and those of the rest of the world. There is still far too little dialogue between various philosophical traditions around the world, and I hope to turn The Philosophical Forum into a meeting place, a forum for discussion, between all of these traditions, so we might learn from one another and develop something both new and shared by all of us. This, more than anything, is what I aim to achieve with The Philosophical Forum. A place for all of us, rather than one dominated by certain conceptions of philosophy, with the occasional inclusion of “outsiders.”

What criteria do you look for in a Philosophical Forum paper?

I look for papers that are doing something new, and something that doesn’t necessarily easily fit into other journals. Focus on quality is central, but too often the idea of quality gets conflated with style, subject matter, or particular views. I view quality in terms of creativity, strength of argumentation, and originality of contribution, not in terms of conforming to a particular style or tradition or a discussion of certain subject matter. Papers that push the boundaries, that aim to try something new, are more than welcome here. Papers that engage with philosophical traditions, ideas, or texts that may not be one’s own are welcome here. I aim for The Philosophical Forum to be a place of philosophical innovation, rather than a place to showcase one’s skills. I’ve long thought of the role of philosophy as a kind of “research and design” department of academia. Ideally, we have fewer constraints and more room to question and rework even the foundations of the intellectual project. Because of features of professionalization, though, we can sometimes become cautious and our creativity suffers. We have to show that our work contributes to some existing debate. That it supports or opposes some view on offer. That it adheres to the style and standards of a particular tradition. This kind of thing ensures that the gates to our particular philosophical projects remain close, and it tends to blunt creativity. The Philosophical Forum will not be a place where a paper will be looked at negatively for trying new things, or for branching off in new directions. On the contrary, that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Still, any piece of quality philosophical work is welcome here. I don’t aim to expand the boundaries of philosophy by rejecting philosophical work as it has been done in the past. The more “traditional” article in contemporary analytic or Continental philosophy still has a place here too. Rather, the focus will be on innovation and contribution to a broader global philosophical discussion, to expanding the scope of what a generalist philosophy journal can do, so as to allow for a broader array of styles, traditions, and ideas. So the paper on analytic philosophy of language will sit alongside others on feminist epistemology, existentialism, philosophy of medicine, history of philosophy across the globe, indigenous philosophy, and on the variety of other topics that philosophers of all kinds both here in the US and across the world are interested in and working on.

What are your goals as editor over the next few years?

One aim, as mentioned above, is to make the journal international in scope, both in terms of contributors and in terms of subject matter. A forum should be a discussion place for everyone, and I will work hard to bring voices, topics, and traditions that tend to go neglected in the West into conversation, with one another and with the Western academy. I also aim to expand the kinds of topics and issues we think about as properly philosophical. There is such amazing philosophical work going on in areas such as anthropology, art history, religious studies, and so many other fields, and this work often flies under the radar of philosophers. The hope is that we can bring some of these people into the conversation at the Forum. I’m looking forward to further expanding the scope of these plans in the next few years—the sky is the limit, and my core commitment is to “stretching out,” to creating something truly new.

In your view, what are the most compelling issues and discussions in philosophy today?

There is so much interesting stuff going on in philosophy right now, but one of the things I’m particularly excited about is the way that traditions outside of the Anglo-American West are being engaged with by a younger generation of philosophers. I’m also encouraged to see more discussion of applied philosophy, often associated also with “public philosophy”—it feels to me like this move brings philosophy closer to what it traditionally was (in numerous cultures!) before the professionalisation of the modern university. Philosophy done for and with a wide range of people, not only members of the profession, and about the kinds of issues we deal with every day, things that can make a concrete difference in the ways we live our lives. The sorry state of our society (both at home and around the world), in which irrationality has become so prevalent that we’re no longer even sure how to tell the difference between seemingly obvious truths and falsehoods, or ignorance and knowledge, shows our desperate need of the aid of philosophical thinking, in the sense of critical thinkers like Socrates and Wang Chong. We have never needed philosophy more than we do today. And we have never needed a meeting of cultures more than we do today. Humans may not be able to solve the existential problems that we will have to reckon with this century. And if we don’t, we won’t survive. But if we can, it will only be through rational and critical thinking and through international cooperation, discussion, and exchange.

Visit The Philosophical Forum homepage for more information: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14679191

Congratulations 2020 Philosopher’s Annual Winners!

Each year, The Philosopher’s Annual faces the daunting task of selecting the 10 best articles in philosophy published that year. For 2020, they’ve chosen four articles from journals published by Wiley: Zach Barnett’s article “Why You Should Vote to Change the Outcome,” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs; Renée Jorgensen Bolinger’s article “The Moral Grounds of Reasonably Mistaken Self-Defense,” published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research; Waheed Hussain’s article “Pitting People Against Each Other,” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs; and Marc Lange’s article “Putting Explanation Back into ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’,” published in Noûs.

Congratulations to all the 2020 award winners!

Stephen J. White (1983-2021)


Stephen J. White made significant contributions to ethical and philosophical thought throughout his career. An associate professor at Northwestern University, his work focused on issues of responsibility, including what we should take responsibility for and how we are especially responsible for our own lives. In his memory, we are making three of his essays free to read through April 30: “On the Moral Objection to Coercion” (Philosophy & Public Affairs Summer 2017), which was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the 10 best philosophy papers of 2017; “The Problem of Self‐Torture: What’s Being Done?” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research May 2017); and “Self‐Prediction in Practical Reasoning: Its Role and Limits” (Noûs April 2020).

“On the Moral Objection to Coercion”

“The Problem of Self‐Torture: What’s Being Done?”

“Self‐Prediction in Practical Reasoning: Its Role and Limits”

In memory: Waheed Hussain (1972-2020)

Professor Waheed Hussain, University of Toronto

Philosophy & Public Affairs is offering free access for 90 days to two of Waheed Hussain’s recent articles in the journal, as a remembrance of his contributions to the discipline and to encourage more people to read his work. Professor Hussain’s research engages the moral issues raised by our economic practices, such as ethical consumerism and competition. His work raises deep questions about the moral limits to economic arrangements, and how our economic practices can be better designed to comport with liberal-democratic ideals.

“Is Ethical Consumerism an Impermissible Form of Vigilantism?” Waheed Hussain – 2012 – Philosophy & Public Affairs 40 (2):111-143.

“Pitting People Against Each Other.” Waheed Hussain” – 2020 – Philosophy & Public Affairs 48 (1):79-113.

The Humanities in Technology: What Kind of World Do We Want?

Wiley Humanities Festival_400x220 As the world becomes increasingly reliant on the work of artificial intelligence, machines, and automated learning, where does that leave the Humanities? How can we use these technological tools to inform Humanities research without compromising the necessary human contributions to these fields?

Wiley is one of the world’s largest and innovative publishers of academic research, at the forefront of the way in which research is performed and disseminated. The Humanities team at Wiley have been focusing on the changes and developments in technology that allow us to discover, communicate, research, and interpret at unprecedented rates and with unprecedented depth.

Machine-learning and AI algorithms are becoming ever more commonplace within research, and are beginning to find their uses within the broad scope of Humanities scholarship. At its most ambitious, AI aims to equal, if not outstrip, human intelligence. AI researchers speculate about the possibility of AI even transcending human intelligence. But where does this ambition leave the people at the heart of the Humanities? After all, these are disciplines that embody the peak of human creativity; philosophy, art, language, literature. Subjects which have, traditionally, been thought of as pure expressions of human nature at its finest. Cold science versus warm imagination.

Considering the role of AI helps us reframe this debate through the lens of using scientific techniques to enhance our understanding of the Humanities, to enhance the ways in which we can learn and the extent to which we can learn. AI is moving from a purely scientific remit to something broader, more fluid, more intuitive. As the technology grows, so does the capacity for application in qualitative research topics as well as quantitative.

As much as Humanities needs this new technology, the technology also needs the Humanities. AI developments will rely increasingly on language and communication, and in turn this requires an ethical examination of the complex issues surrounding the proliferation and integration into human society of an intelligence potentially greater than our own. We will need to assess, debate, and scrutinize AI applications from the angle of philosophy, morality, and ethics.

So how do we utilise and integrate this technology successfully into our Humanities research? How do we prepare from the enormous changes, benefits, and concerns that come with such a radical shift in how we understand and analyse Humanities subjects – how we understand and analyse ourselves?

Our webinar on November 14th will focus on three primary areas within this broader question:

    • What field of humanities would most benefit from AI algorithms
    • Can machines extract meaning from texts better than humans?
    • And as AI starts interpreting text/data, what ethical concerns does it raise?

 

Chaired by Kate McKellar, Senior Publishing Manager for Humanities journals at Wiley, she will be joined by: Professor Melissa Terras, Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh; Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores, Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at Lancaster University and Co-Director of their Digital Humanities Hub; Raymond Abruzzi, Publisher for the Wiley Digital Archives programme.

Click here to sign up for the free webinar.

American Philosophical Association Eastern- Virtual Issue 2019

By Elizabeth Levine

 

In January 2019, the American Philosophical Association will hold its Eastern meeting in New York City. In honor of the One Hundred and Fifteenth meeting, Wiley has compiled a free collection of the top cited articles in Philosophy from our publishing partners journals. This collection can be read by anyone until March 31st 2019.

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Resolving the Tensions Between White People’s Active Investment in Racial Inequality and White Ignorance: A Response to Marzia Milazzo

Theoria

Why Do Irrational Beliefs Mimic Science? The Cultural Evolution of Pseudoscience

Ratio

A Brief Argument For Consciousness Without Access

Mind & Language

The epistemic innocence of clinical memory distortions

Metaphilosophy

On the Philosophy of Bitcoin/Blockchain Technology: Is it a Chaotic, Complex System?

Dialetica

A Demonstration of the Causal Power of Absences

Bioethics

Empathy, social media, and directed altruistic living organ donation

Journal of Philosophy of Education

Can ‘Philosophy for Children’ Improve Primary School Attainment?

Hastings Center Report

Sequencing Newborns: A Call for Nuanced Use of Genomic Technologies

Hypatia

Tracking Privilege‐Preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Classes

History & Theory

THE ALLURE OF DARK TIMES: MAX WEBER, POLITICS, AND THE CRISIS OF HISTORICISM

Philosophical Issues

LOGICAL NIHILISM: COULD THERE BE NO LOGIC?*

Nous

Gettier Across Cultures

Philosophical Forum

Big Data and Transcendental Philosophy

The Southern Journal of Philosophy

Thinking in the Zone: The Expert Mind in Action

Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science

THE HUMAN BEING SHAPING AND TRANSCENDING ITSELF: WRITTEN LANGUAGE, BRAIN, AND CULTURE

Philosophy & Public Affairs

Future People, the Non‐Identity Problem, and Person‐Affecting Principles

Journal of Social Philosophy

Modeling Inclusive Pedagogy: Five Approaches

Analytic Philosophy

Real Definition

Journal of Chinese Philosophy

CONFUCIANISM AND UBUNTU: REFLECTIONS ON A DIALOGUE BETWEEN CHINESE AND AFRICAN TRADITIONS

 

 

Wiley Humanities Festival 2018: Why Technology Matters: The Humanities in the 21st Century

The field of humanities is changing rapidly, along with the world, as new technologies alter centuries of tradition in various disciplines. In this, the third year of the Wiley Humanities Festival, we’ll focus on the digital humanities, and how technology has revolutionized the way the humanities will be taught, learned, and researched for years to come.

451603-400x220px_Version1_FINAL WEB READY.jpg

The festival will take place Thursday, September 13th, and will conclude with our free webinar, which looks at why technology matters, especially within the humanities in the twenty-first century. Below you’ll find brief introductions for the participants of our webinar.

Register now for the webinar and join us on September 13th to take part and learn more about the digital humanities.

Steve has a lifelong commitment to the fundamental mission of teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.  After graduating in philosophy from McGill University in Montreal and Oxford University, Steve embarked upon a career in SSH publishing spanning over twenty-five years — first at Blackwell Publishers in Oxford UK, and then at Wiley in Boston MA.  Steve has served in various editorial capacities, including as editorial director of the social sciences and humanities books program during a period of transformational change.  Amongst other things, Steve helped lead and launch the creation of Blackwell Reference Online, the world’s largest and most authoritative digital reference resource, and Wiley’s ambitious portfolio of eMRWs.  In more recent years, Steve has been focusing on strategic development and the fast-growing open access program at Wiley.

Professor Kingsley Bolton joined Nanyang Technological University in 2013, as Professor of English Linguistics and Head of the Language and Communication Centre. Professor Kingsley Bolton has published sixteen books (edited and authored), and more than eighty journal articles and book chapters. He is Co-Editor of the Wiley journal, World Englishes. He is also a Member of the Editorial Boards of Applied Linguistics ReviewEducational Studies, English TodayEnglish World-WideGlobal Chinese, and the Journal of World Languages. Professor Bolton served as Elected President of the International Association for World Englishes from 2003-04, is a Founding Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy for the Humanities, and Professor Emeritus of Stockholm University, Sweden.

Miranda Richardson has been Editor of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, published for the Nautical Archaeology Society, for the past six years. A love of sailing, diving, and an archaeology education and career, followed by a stint in newspaper journalism, brought her to the role, of which she says: ‘How could I not love it? I get to sail both around the world and through time, at least in my imagination’. The constraints of working under water have made maritime archaeologists early adopters of new technologies and encouraged them to use digital means to present current research to both academic audiences and the general public.

Lizzie Brophy is currently a Senior Journals Publishing Manager at Wiley where she manages a list of Political Science, Archaeology, and Geography journals. Her background is in Classical Archaeology, and she completed her DPhil in Ptolemaic and Roman Royal Sculpture at Oxford in 2015. Since joining Wiley as a Journals Publishing Assistant in 2015, she has been putting those research skills to use, especially thinking about journal metrics and the role of social media in the research landscape.

We hope you’ll join us for a lively discussion of the evolution of the humanities!