Whom does philosophy speak for?

In “Whom Does Philosophy Speak For,” Seyla Benhabib and George Yancy consider that sometimes philosophy speaks for and about everyone and yet at other times seems not to. Unfortunately, “a dynamic of freedom for some and domination for others is present in much of Western philosophy.” This has a significant bearing on our understanding of democracy. Benhabib says, “Western philosophy, as distinguished from myth, literature, drama and many other forms of human expression, speaks in the name of the universal. Philosophy emerges when Socrates and Plato show how we have to free ourselves from the ‘idols of the city,’ and when the pre-Socratics ask about what constitutes matter and the universe, rejecting the answers provided by the Greek polytheistic myths.” And yet she also agrees when Yancy points out “that within the Western philosophical tradition, the mind, coded as white and male, is privileged over the body, coded as female or a signification of blackness, creating a false, disembodied practice.”

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Does color exist?

Is color in your mind or in the thing? Is that dress white and gold or blue and black? Malcolm Harris’s review of a new work of philosophy about color can help you think about that. “In her new book Outside Color, University of Pittsburgh professor M. Chirimuuta gives a serendipitously timed history of the puzzle of color in philosophy. To read the book as a layman feels like being let in on a shocking secret: Neither scientists nor philosophers know for sure what color is.” It turns out color is not an object of sight but a way of seeing them.

Self, with or without selfies

Stan Persky’s book review of Barry Dainton’s Self: Philosophy in Transit is an extended, entertaining, and instructive grand tour of many ideas about the self, that remarkable ability humans have “to sleepily glance at the bathroom mirror in the morning, and not only recognize ourselves, but also reflectively note, ‘Hmm, I don’t like myself very much these days. I wonder what I can do to change who and/or what I am.’” Thought experiments like the “ultimate simulation simulation machine” and “teleportation” make an appearance along the way.

The disremembered

In “The Disremembered” Charles Leadbeater claims that “[p]hilosophy is not of much practical use with most illnesses but in the case of dementia it provides insights about selfhood and identity that can help us make sense of the condition and our own reactions to it.”  There are two broad philosophical explanations of self-identity. There is the mind-based or memory-based explanation of Descartes and Locke. But when mind and memory fade, so does self-identity. But there is another philosophical tradition that can help: “philosophers in this tradition contend that who we are depends not simply on our self-reflective ability to marshal our memories but, crucially, on our relationships with other people and how we are embedded in the world around us.” In other words, beware of being a memory snob.