White Habits, Anti‐Racism, and Philosophy as a Way of Life

Southern Journal of Philosophy 58 (2):279-301 (2020)
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This paper examines Pierre Hadot’s philosophy as a way of life in the context of race. I argue that a “way of life” approach to philosophy renders intelligible how anti-racist confrontation of racist ideas and institutionalized white complicity is a properly philosophical way of life requiring regulated reflection on habits – particularly, habits of whiteness. I first rehearse some of Hadot’s analysis of the “way of life” orientation in philosophy, in which philosophical wisdom is understood as cultivated by actions which result in the creation of wise habits. I analyze a phenomenological claim about the nature of habit implied by the “way of life” approach, namely, that habits can be both the cause and the effect of action. This point is central to the “way of life” philosophy, I claim, in that it makes possible the intelligent redirection of habits, in which wise habits are more the effect than simply the cause of action. Lastly, I illustrate the “way of life” approach in the context of anti-racism by turning to Linda Martín Alcoff’s whiteness anti-eliminativism, which outlines a morally defensible transformation of the habits of whiteness. I argue that anti-racism provides an intelligible context for modern day forms of what Hadot calls “spiritual exercises” insofar as the “way of life” philosophy is embodied in the practice of whites seeing themselves seeing as white and seeing themselves being seen as white.
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Archival date: 2020-06-12
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