Philosophy colloquium features student presentation

On Sept. 29, the philosophy department hosted a colloquium featuring Liam Kruchten ’24 who spoke about their experience as the sole undergraduate at a conference held by the Caribbean Philosophy Association (CPA). They were able to attend this program via a Student Academic Affairs Board grant. 

The week-long conference consisted of panelists who introduced fundamental Caribbean philosophical concepts and points of contention in contemporary Indigenous thought. Points of contention included what it means to be human, whether queerness is inherent to Blackness, the continuing use of Western philosophy and conceptions of gender. 

One motif was the intentional use of the term “transdisciplinary” as opposed to “interdisciplinary” when describing education that draws on multiple academic fields. 

According to Kruchten, transdisciplinary means following an approach to education that is less reductive, more accurate in joining disciplines together and more inclusive of nonprofessionals.

When asked about the applicability of the term “transdisciplinary,” English and Philosophy Professor Phillip Barron weighed in on the concept. 

“A transdisciplinary approach has always been important to me when I think about teaching because I think it makes space for a different community of scholars to be present in the classroom,” Barron said. “But it also allows the way we talk about things in the classroom to more closely match how language is used outside of the classroom.” 

An imperative topic of discussion was the idea of shifting the geography of reason away from a model wherein European ideas are placed on a pedestal.

“Often in academia or just in general, African philosophy, Indigenous philosophy and Caribbean philosophy are only valued in relation to Europe and in contrast to Europe,” Kruchten said. “Yes, there are conditions created by colonialism, but we do not need to continue colonialism and be complicit by studying only British or European philosophers and saying ‘people in our history have a similar argument or did the same thing, so they must have gotten them from Europe.’”

Regarding their experience as a whole, Kruchten admitted it was scary, especially due to the substantial barrier of knowledge regarding Caribbean philosophy, but that it was great to be around people who are good at what they do and push one another without passing judgment.theyclaimed that unlike abstract Lewis & Clark courses pertaining to less prototypical philosophies which encourage one to disconnect from their cultural context, the hands-on nature of the CPA allowed for “doing” philosophy in a way that felt personal and full of emotion. 

Despite the receptive eyes and ears of the scholars who attended CPA, Kruchten reminds himself and others that it is important to remain vigilant of the relationship between the self and non-Western philosophies. 

After watching the presentation, two philosophy majors who were asked about their takeaways said that it was nice to get a general overview of contemporary Caribbean philosophy. 

For those interested in an introduction to Caribbean philosophy, Kruchten recommends reading the works of seminal scholars such as Sylvia Winter or Frantz Fanon, referring to the wonderful philosophy professors on campus or even reaching out to active scholars like Lewis Gordon by email.

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