Friday, 29 January 2010

Staff cuts at King's

Philosophy Departments in Jeopardy

King’s College London has recently announced dramatic cuts to its philosophy department.  You can find some information about it here:
I have conflicting thoughts about the closure of philosophy departments.  On the one hand, philosophy is vital to culture.  I know it seems that the two can be at opposite poles - that philosophers are so far removed from our everyday that the two never meet - but that’s not really the case.  Philosophy gives us the language to talk about how and why we think.  It’s like a little laboratory that throws light on our consciousness. Without the work of philosophers, we couldn’t place these processes into a historical context nor could we reflect on the everydayness of our lives.  Philosophy provides the discourse of our lives. In this respect, it is vital to continuing our creative, explorative development in both our cultural and individual lives.
On the other hand, philosophy as a discipline is antiquated.  Take the departments at King’s for instance.  This is a department made up of 22 permanent academic staff of which 3 are women.  There are no non-white faces on the staff. Racial theory, gender theory or feminist theory are not in the list of research interest. 
Many of the philosophy departments across the UK tell this same story.  They are firmly committed to the analytic tradition, which doesn’t attract the racial and gender diversity one would hope for.  As a result, the work of feminist philosophy, gender philosophy and race-based philosophy is being done and has been being done in other departments.  English and Modern Language departments take over most of this work in the UK with little funding to do so.
Since these emerging philosophies seem to have a closer connection to our cultural lives in that they give us a way of thinking difference - race, gender, age, sexual - it is no wonder that philosophy departments like that at King’s is suffering cuts. 

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