New Philosophy

Other American Philosophies

What are the other American philosophies?

The question left by Sokal’s work is this: “Does such political condemnation of an entire field of thought respect hard-won principles of academic freedom? And if standards of political worthiness are being applied to postmodernism, is that application fair, given over two and half centuries of philosophy that has been largely irrelevant to its immediate political contexts?

While it’s true that much postmodern work was sparked by widespread student protests in France in 1968, so has much politically ineffective, if not irrelevant, work in the history of philosophy been inspired by instant political events. Moreover, political criticism of postmodernism requires some understanding of its intellectual, poststructuralist context, which Sokal seems to lack. Finally, the issue of political relevance is separate from the question of whether a body of work is nonsense.

The term here refers to philosophies that represent groups in the Americas that have been politically subordinate to the groups historically represented by the U.S. government. These philosophies themselves have long histories in their cultures of origin, but their concerns have recently become part of Anglo-American mainstream academic philosophy. As a result, new philosophical subfields emerged toward the end of the twentieth century: African American, Native American, and Latin American philosophy. Each of these traditions has developed as a form of cultural criticism, and insofar as its analyses of oppression would not immediately be recognized as such by perpetrators, each is a distinctive critical theory.


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