Why philosophy must be multicultural

sep11-multiculturalism-300All of us who work at universities know it: Diversity promotes creativity. The intellectual environments that contain people of different genders, origins, cultures, and educational backgrounds tend to be the most creative ones. New ideas emerge when different perspectives meet.

Philosophy, with its long dialogue tradition, can be a wonderful meeting-ground for different experiences and cultural traditions. I also believe that human and cultural diversity is even more important in philosophy than in most other academic subjects. Let me explain why.

There are at least three arguments for diversity in an academic discipline. The first and most obvious argument is that of equal opportunity. Secondly, there is the recruitment argument. If we only recruit white males, then we will miss all the talented people who do not belong to that minority. These two arguments apply equally to all academic subjects. But then there is a third argument that is more important for some disciplines than for others, namely that of specific contributions: In some disciplines there is a particularly strong need for people with a wide variety of life experiences in order to see things from as many perspectives as possible. This applies obviously to the social sciences. Female researchers in sociology and economics have put focus on the life conditions of women. Members of ethnic minorities have uncovered previously ignored aspects of their country’s history.

As I see it, this applies to philosophy as well. In order to see what is universal in the human experience we need to combine as many different perspectives as possible. In order to philosophize better we need to be a diverse lot in terms of backgrounds and life experiences. It would be a serious mistake to see gender equality, multiculturalism and the representation of minorities as some sort of “external” requirement that is imposed on us. We need diversity in order to do our job properly.


Sven Ove Hansson
Editor-in-chief of Theoria