Reason and Solidarity with Persons against White Supremacy and Irresponsibility: A South Asian Analysis

Feminist Philosophical Quarterly 10 (1/2):1-31 (2024)
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White supremacy dominates the academy and political discussions. It first consists of conflating the geography of the West (where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color—BIPOC—are to be found) with a specific colonizing tradition originating in ancient Greek thought—call this tradition the West. Secondly, and more profoundly, it consists in treating this tradition as the frame for the study of every other intellectual tradition, which since the Romans it brands as religion. The political function of this marginalization of BIPOC philosophy is to shield Western colonialism from moral philosophical criticism. The mechanism of colonialism is interpretation— explanation in terms of propositional attitudes, like belief. Not only is this a basic commitment of the Western tradition owing to its foundational linguistic account of thought (LAT), the South Asian moral philosophy of Yoga shows interpretation to be the essence of irresponsibility: it undermines the possibilities of choice as it is antilogical and is the mechanism of oppression. In contrast, Yoga, a fourth basic ethical theory (in addition to virtue ethics, consequentialism, and deontology) identifies an alternate metaethical choice as the essence of moral responsibility: explication—understanding in terms of inferential relationships. Yoga is not only the locus classicus for a nondiscriminatory, antioppressive approach to moral standing: it constitutes reason-based, (both ideal and nonideal) normative practices of solidarity with people (including nonhumans and celestial bodies like the Earth). This paper explores the mutually exclusive disjunction between interpretation and explication, the historical impact of these methodologies, and the colonization by the West of philosophy in the game of Publish or Perish. Shaking this off is as easy as returning to the philosophically indigenous practice of explication.

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Shyam Ranganathan
York University


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