A political and philosophical manifesto considers the ramifications of a world in which Western society is divided from other cultures, evaluating the limited capacity of differentiating societies as compared to the power of a united world.
A new edition of the highly acclaimed book Multiculturalism and "The Politics of Recognition," this paperback brings together an even wider range of leading philosophers and social scientists to probe the political controversy surrounding ...
"These essays make a splendid book. Ignatieff's lectures are engaging and vigorous; they also combine some rather striking ideas with savvy perceptions about actual domestic and international politics.
K. Anthony Appiah, the author of the internationally best-selling Cosmopolitanism, analyzes what causes societies to end cruelty and injustices - such as slavery, foot binding, or honor killing. Can a government through its laws halt egregious violations of human decency and can mere moral instruction bring an end to human suffering? No, says Appiah, demonstrating how reform succeeds only when it enlists the primal human sense of honor. When it comes to morality, honor is the lever arm that connects what (...) we know to what we do. (shrink)
Idealization is a fundamental feature of human thought. We build simplified models in our scientific research and utopias in our political imaginations. Concepts like belief, desire, reason, and justice are bound up with idealizations and ideals. Life is a constant adjustment between the models we make and the realities we encounter. In idealizing, we proceed “as if” our representations were true, while knowing they are not. This is not a dangerous or distracting occupation, Kwame Anthony Appiah shows. Our best chance (...) of understanding nature, society, and ourselves is to open our minds to a plurality of imperfect depictions that together allow us to manage and interpret our world. -/- The philosopher Hans Vaihinger first delineated the “as if” impulse at the turn of the twentieth century, drawing on Kant, who argued that rational agency required us to act as if we were free. Appiah extends this strategy to examples across philosophy and the human and natural sciences. In a broad range of activities, we have some notion of the truth yet continue with theories that we recognize are, strictly speaking, false. From this vantage point, Appiah demonstrates that a picture one knows to be unreal can be a vehicle for accessing reality. -/- As If explores how strategic untruth plays a critical role in far-flung areas of inquiry: decision theory, psychology, natural science, and political philosophy. A polymath who writes with mainstream clarity, Appiah defends the centrality of the imagination not just in the arts but in science, morality, and everyday life. (shrink)
In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's most (...) vexing problem.Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race. (shrink)
Abusua do funu. The matriclan loves a corpse. AKAN PROVERB My father died, as I say, while I was trying to finish this book. His funeral was an occasion for strengthening and reaffirming the ties that bind me to Ghana and “my father's house' ...
Judeo-Christian and Anglo-Saxon forms of marriage have injected patrilineal values and companionate expectations into the Akan matrilineal family structure. As Anthony Appiah demonstrates, these infusions have generated severe strains in the matrikin social structures and, in extreme cases, resulted in the break up of families. In this essay, I investigate the ideological politics at play in this patrilinealization of Asante society.
Through most of the twentieth century, life scientists grew increasingly sceptical of the biological significance of folk classifications of people by race. New work on the human genome has raised the possibility of a resurgence of scientific interest in human races. This paper aims to show that the racial sceptics are right, while also granting that biological information associated with racial categories may be useful.
Sara Suleri has written recently, in Meatless Days, of being treated as an "otherness machine"-and of being heartily sick of it.20 Perhaps the predicament of the postcolonial intellectual is simply that as intellectuals-a category instituted in black Africa by colonialism-we are, indeed, always at the risk of becoming otherness machines, with the manufacture of alterity as our principal role. Our only distinction in the world of texts to which we are latecomers is that we can mediate it to our fellows. (...) This is especially true when postcolonial meets postmodern; for what the postmodern reader seems to demand of Africa is all too close to what modernism-in the form of the postimpressionists-demanded of it. The role that Africa, like the rest of the Third World, plays for Euro-American postmodernism-like its better-documented significance for modernist art-must be distinguished from the role postmodernism might play in the Third World; what that might be it is, I think, too early to tell. What happens will happen not because we pronounce on the matter in theory, but will happen out of the changing everyday practices of African cultural life.For all the while, in Africa's cultures, there are those who will not see themselves as Other. Despite the overwhelming reality of economic decline; despite unimaginable poverty; despite wars, malnutrition, disease, and political instability, African cultural productivity grows apace: popular literatures, oral narrative and poetry, dance, drama, music, and visual art all thrive. The contemporary cultural production of many African societies, and the many traditions whose evidences so vigorously remain, is an antidote to the dark vision of the postcolonial novelist. 20. Sara Suleri, Meatless Days , p. 105. Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and literature at Duke University, is the author of a number of books, including For Truth in Semantics , Necessary Questions , and In My Father's House , a collection of essays on African cultural politics. His first novel, Avenging Angel, was published in 1990. (shrink)
Some three score years ago, the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess found himself dissatisfied with “what are called ‘theories of truth’ in philosophical literature.” “The discussion has already lasted some 2500 years,” he wrote. “The number of participants amounts to a thousand, and the number of articles and books devoted to the discussion is much greater.” In this great ocean of words, he went on, the philosophers had often made bold statements about what “the man in the street” or “Das Volk” (...) or “la conscience humaine” made of truth or Wahrheit or vérité. And Naess had a few simple questions about these claims: “How do the philosophers know these things? What is the source of their knowledge? What have they done to arrive at it? … their writings,” he complained, “contain almost nothing of this matter.”1 And so Naess began the research that resulted in the publication in 1938 of his first book in English: “Truth” As Conceived By Those Who Are Not Professional Philosophers. (shrink)
This article argues against the view that affirmative action is wrong because it involves assigning group rights. First, affirmative action does not have to proceed by assigning rights at all. Second, there are, in fact, legitimate “group rights” both legal and moral; there are collective rights—which are exercised by groups—and membership rights—which are rights people have in virtue of group membership. Third, there are continuing harms that people suffer as blacks and claims to remediation for these harms can fairly treat (...) the (social) property of being black as tracking the victims of those harms. Affirmative action motivated in this way aims to respond to individual wrongs; wrongs that individuals suffer, as it happens, in virtue of their membership in groups. Finally, the main right we have when we are being considered for jobs and places at colleges is that we be treated according to procedures that are morally defensible. Morally acceptable procedures sometimes take account of the fact that a person is a member of a certain social group. (shrink)
This book aims to allow readers with no previous exposure to professional philosophy to gain an understanding of the approaches and the positions current in the field and to prepare them for further reading.
This article summarizes my views on epistemological problems in African studies as I have expressed them previously in different contexts, mainly my book In My Father's House (1992), to which I refer the reader for further details. I start with an attempt to expose some natural errors in our thinking about the traditional-modern polarity, and thus help understand some striking and not generally appreciated similarities of the logical problem situation in modern western philosophy of science to the analysis of traditional (...) African epistemic procedures. This similarity rests upon both types of analysis dealing with procedures crucially hinging upon knowledge claims. (shrink)
Modern sociology and anthropology proposed from their very beginnings a scientific study of religion. This paper discusses attempts to understand religion in this ‘scientific’ way. I start with a classical canon of anthropology and sociology of religion, in the works of E. B. Tylor, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim. Science aims to be a discourse that transcends local identities; it is deeply cosmopolitan. To offer a local metaphysics as its basis would produce a discourse that was not recognizable as a (...) contribution to the cosmopolitan conversation of the sciences. So, a science of religion cannot appeal to the entities invoked in any particular religion; hence the methodological atheism of these three founding fathers. This cosmopolitan ideal, the calling of the scientist, on the one hand, and the concern to understand the ideas of other cultures, on the other, can pull in different directions. Understanding requires us to appeal to our own concepts but not to our own truths. In the explanations, though, truth – the universal shared reality – has to matter, because the scientific story of religion has to work for people of all faiths and none, precisely because it is cosmopolitan. Not everything we call a religion will have historical Christianity's laser-like focus on ontological truth-claims. But as long as there are people making truth-claims in the name of religion, there will be the possibility of a tension between the very idea of a science of religion and some of the multifarious collections of beliefs, practices and institutions that make up what we now call ‘religions’. (shrink)