2012 American Philosophical Association Presidential Address

Philosophy's Civil Wars

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Professor Linda Martín-Alcoff gave the Presidential Address at the 2012 Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Atlanta Georgia, December 29, 2012. The text of her address, which was entitled “Philosophy’s Civil Wars,” will appear in the November 2013 issue of the APA Proceedings and Addresses (87.2). The presentation she gave is here in this podcast, along with the introduction by Professor Sally Haslanger.

Alcoff raises the question of the moral and political stakes of philosophy's current internal divisiveness, as well as its relation to the professions' "demographic challenges." She challenges the widely held belief that the professions’ dominance by white males has no bearing on its content. Other disciplines, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities, have addressed their demographic shortcomings and made significant headway. The question is: what is holding philosophy back? Alcoff suggests it is the profession’s self-understanding as an enterprise that is aimed above all at truth, where the pursuit of truth is understood to be exempt from the quotidian concerns of sociology. She offers two counterexamples from within philosophy itself that provide other ways to think about truth: from contemporary philosophers of science, and from the tradition of Latin American philosophy. These traditions contextualize the processes within which we arrive at truth. Philosophy’s civil wars will no doubt continue, but Alcoff hopes the true stakes of these wars will become more apparent.