Why Philosophy Can’t Globalize?! The Promise of Metaphilosophy and the New Comparative Global Humanities

Presented by: Wiebke Denecke

When: 8:15 – 9:15 am Section 1: Humanities Concepts and Disciplines; Panel 1, 1B

Abstract: No other humanities discipline has been as fiercely resisting the opening of its hallowed gates to non-Western traditions. While sister disciplines have confronted the challenge in the new millennium and constructively developed global incarnations such as “World Literature” or “Global History,” colleagues working on non-Western traditions in Philosophy departments are by now utterly desperate over the refusal of their discipline to globalize. The tragic irony of the current deadlock over Philosophy’s “diversity problem” is that there has been no shortage of globally-intentioned initiatives—for many decades: comparative (and post-comparative) philosophy, intercultural philosophy, global philosophy, world philosophy, ethno-philosophies, to name just a few.

We thus need to ask: why have these attempts so far proven not quite successful, sometimes even divisive, despite best intentions? This essay first clarifies the misgivings on both side of the divide—between scholars of Western philosophy and scholars of thought traditions beyond the West—and pinpoints the sources of Philosophy’s internal identity crisis and its external diversity problem in our historical moment. I then propose to address both challenges through a radical empowerment of the currently underappreciated subfield of “Metaphilosophy” (or the “Philosophy of Philosophy”). Although Metaphilosophy has already proven its transformative potential by asking meta-level questions about the nature of the discipline in the West and by bringing contemporary public and social issues to the fore, nobody so far seems to have thought of mobilizing Metaphilosophy as a tool to address Philosophy’s diversity problem.

I show how a radically globalized and historicized Metaphilosophy, in conjuction with a congenial (and equally underappreciated) field of a philosophical History of Philosophy could not just help “globalize” Philosophy. It could bring a new role for philosophers to become a supra-discipline of conceptual meta-reflection for the sake of Philosophy and the globalizing new humanities and interpretive social sciences. But the diversity problem of Philosophy departments is not a task our philosophy colleagues can—or actually should—shoulder alone. Rather, fellow humanists in adjacent disciplines, which used to be part of the vast realm of pre-19th century philosophia, as well as we fellow humanists of non-Western thought traditions, who can bring into the arena new humanistic, conceptual, imaginative resources for entirely new horizons and purposes of philosophizing, need to join to walk this path in mutually inquisitive and inspiring company. To overcome the current deadlock we will want to set this constructive and excited tone as we all, differently, strive to contribute to globalizing Philosophy—and the Humanities along the way.