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Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Philosophy

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Video: Do we know what knowing is?
Duration: 00:24:23
Date: 13-06-1973
Video: The concept of mind
Duration: 00:24:27
Date: 14-03-1973
Video: Introduction to logic
Duration: 00:23:00
Date: 22-02-1972

When asked to picture a philosopher, the image that comes to mind for many of us is a white man. This wouldn’t be entirely (statistically) inaccurate: there has long been underrepresentation of particular groups, including women, racial minorities, gender and sexual minorities, disabled people, and first generation scholars, in philosophy as a discipline. Philosophy often stands out amongst other disciplines in the arts and humanities for its lack of diversity. The reasons for this are likely myriad and complex: possibilities include implicit bias, stereotype threat, modes of discussion, sexual harassment, and the trope of the philosopher as a ‘lone genius’. Education and opportunities earlier in life likely play a role, although research indicating a ‘leaky pipeline’, whereby representation decreases the further along the educational or career ladder one goes, suggest that barriers remain within the profession itself.

On the positive side, the situation for underrepresented groups in philosophy seems to be improving. Groups such as the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWiP) and Minorities and Philosophy have been growing; they aim to support philosophers from underrepresented groups, raise awareness of issues of discrimination and marginalisation within the profession, and break down existing barriers. In philosophy departments across the UK, calls to decolonise the curriculum have opened up broader conversations around the impact of colonial legacies on philosophical thought and pedagogy, what counts as philosophy, and who is considered a philosopher.

Whilst there is still a long way to go, it is also important to highlight and celebrate the contributions of those philosophers, past and present, who have succeeded despite these barriers. In one of the videos in this archive, Susan Wilson (née Khin Zaw) gives an adept and engaging introduction to logic. Diversity in philosophy departments, as well as diversity in whose work is placed on reading lists, provides crucial opportunities for students to see themselves reflected in teaching, and to break down these narrow images of who philosophers are. 

Arguably, increasing diversity in philosophy has epistemic benefits: people with different life experiences and perspectives might bring innovative answers to age-old philosophical puzzles. Moreover, the pursuit of philosophy in itself can be incredibly rewarding: these rewards should be for everyone.

Azita Chellappoo
Azita Chellappoo is a Lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University and a former director of Minorities and Philosophy UK.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Philosophy (page 2 of 4)