Anand Jayprakash Vaidya, Director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy at San Jose State University, California
Recently, two pieces of mine have come out in publication. First, an interview of me in 3AM Magazine by Richard Marshall called Hindu Syllogisms and Dark Necessities Go Fusion Here, and a book review of Jonardon Ganeri’s Attention, Not Self in the journal Mind. In both of those pieces I used the phrase “Cross-Cultural and Multi-Disciplinary Philosophy” to label both what I think the future direction of philosophy should be and what is important in that direction. This phrase in fact refers back to a piece I wrote on public philosophy called “Public Philosophy: Cross-Cultural and Multi-Disciplinary” which was published in the Journal of Comparative Philosophy.
It has come to my attention that I may have made some people working under the label “cross-cultural philosophy” feel excluded and feel that their work is less important than the kind of work I put under the label “cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary.” One reason a person might feel excluded is that the term “cross-cultural” is more inclusive than the term “cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary,” since the latter involves a conjunction, thus picking out a subset of “cross-cultural.”
So, let me begin with an apology. It was not my intention to exclude, and the fact that I did not intend to exclude does not mean that I did not exclude, and so I wish to apologize to all of those who felt excluded. I hope that you accept my apology and realize that this was something I said, and a phrase I used, because I failed to take into consideration the very thing that I am aiming for, greater inclusion of philosophical work. So, sorry.
Now to the clarification. I agree with Jay Garfield when he says:
The goal of cross-cultural philosophy is not so much to juxtapose texts from distinct traditions to notice similarities and differences as it is to do philosophy, with lots of texts, lots of perspectives, and lots of hermeneutical traditions—to make the resources of diverse traditions and their scholars available to one another and to create new dialogues. (Garfield, Empty Words(OUP 2002) pp. viii)
Relatedly, I think that the most important next step for philosophy is to go cross-cultural in the sense defined by Garfield. I absolutely believe that work in cross-cultural philosophy that does not engage with non-philosophical disciplines is valuable and of current relevance and importance. In addition, I think collective agreement on the broad definition of “cross-cultural philosophy” mentioned above helps the cause by promoting solidarity. Whatever differences or preferences that people have after we reach that agreement should be discussed as coming as the step after the next step. When I spoke of the importance of “multi-disciplinary” work and mentioned work by Jonardon Ganeri and Evan Thompson, I forgot to mention that I was thinking and talking about philosophy of mind, an area in which I work and where I see that one should aim to engage cross-culturally and multi-disciplinarily, where the emphasis is on cognitive science and related disciplines. In this respect the work done by Ganeri and Thompson is fascinating and really ground breaking.
My combining of the phrases “cross-cultural” and “multi-disciplinary” comes from a reaction to the relationship between analytic philosophy and experimental philosophy. In speaking to the debate between these two camps I was forwarding the idea that cross-cultural philosophy is a corrective to the debate between these two groups. However, for those that are working, and have been working in comparative philosophy, and who are moving toward cross-cultural philosophy, I did not intend to say that work done in that area needs to engage scientific disciplines if that is not necessary or relevant to the work being done. Nor did I mean to say that it is not important.
In fact, the point could be made about all three areas. Experimental philosophers need not engage analytic philosophy if that is not necessary or relevant. And analytic philosophers need not engage experimental philosophy or non-western traditions if they are not necessary or relevant. However, what I don’t want anyone to do is read that as an open invitation to assume from the outset that they aren’t relevant. Rather, my hope is that others will see that if they look hard enough and try, they often are relevant. And sure, not everyone can be multi-disciplinary in every piece—I don’t even do that, but surely, we can acknowledge the reasons why we don’t, while at the same time agreeing that in some places multi-disciplinarity is relevant and necessary.
Most importantly, no matter what defense I have given here, I am sorry if I excluded you simply because you do cross-cultural work that isn’t multi-disciplinary.