Kurzbeschreibung: Solomon/Higgings, Continental Philosophy

Robert C. Solomon und Kathleen M. Higgins, Philosophierende in der Tradition der sogenannten Continental philosophyin den USA, stellten 1993 die erste global orientierte Textsammlung in englischer Sprache zusammen unter dem Titel: From Africa to Zen: An Invitation to World Philosophy. (Dieses Buch wurde in einer zweiten Auflage von 2003 um neue Themen erweitert.) Die Aufsätze sind verfasst von heute noch bekannten Spezialisten für die jeweiligen Themenbereiche: 1. Understanding Order: The Chinese Perspective, David L. Hall and Roger T Ames; 2. Ways of Japanese Thinking, Graham Parkes; 3. Traditional American Indian Attitudes toward Nature, Baird Callicott and Thomas W. Overholt; 4. Pre-Columbian and Modern Philosophical Perspectives in Latin America, Jorge Valadez; 5. Arabic Philosophy, Eric Ormsby; 6. Jewish Philosophy, Oliver N. Leaman (2003 neu); 7. Persian Philosophy, Homayoon Sepasi and Janet McCracken; 8. The Myth of Authenticity: Personhood, Traditional Culture, and African Philosophy, Jacqueline Trimier; 9. Indian Philosophies, Stephen H. Phillips; 10. Buddhist Philosophy as a Buddhist Practice, Peter D. Hershock (2003 neu); 11. Nga Whakaaro Maori: Maori Philosophy, Roy W. Perrett (2003 neu); 12. Esoteric Philosophy, Robert A. McDermott. Das Themenspektrum ist beeindruckend und umfassender als jede bisherige monographische Darstellung. Vor allem sind auch vorkoloniale amerikanische Perspektiven einbezogen und zudem die Maori aus Neuseeland. Die programmatischen Überlegungen für den Band werden in der folgenden Textpassage deutlich zum Ausdruck gebracht: 

„As everyone who has recently set foot in a university or read the editorials of our more cosmopolitan newspapers knows, there is a vigorous attempt in academia to combat the ethnocentrism of the traditional (‘male, white, European’) college curriculum and the implicit chauvinism (if not racism) it represents. In philosophy in particular, some administrations have all but mandated that as a field of study it should become increasingly conscious of and attentive to other philosophical traditions. Even a casual review of the standard course offerings and dissertation topics demonstrates an embarrassing one-dimensionality, stretching through time from Socrates to Sartre or Quine with nary a mention of Confucius or Nagarjuna.  There is no mention of African philosophy or any African philosopher (except Augustine, whose origins are conveniently ignored) and no Latin American philosophy. No matter what one’s position on the politically hot, and even explosive, topic of ‘multiculturalism,’ it must be admitted that the demand for global sensitivity in philosophy is healthy for a subject that has indeed become overly narrow, insulated from other disciplines, and in many quarters oblivious even to its own culture as well as to others.

Coming to appreciate those other cultures and their philosophies is hampered, however, by the very narrow strictures on what deserves the honorific name of ‘philosophy.’ For example, the current emphasis on argumentation – often summarized as rationality – as the essence of philosophy excludes much of the more poetic and nondisputational wisdom of non-Western cultures, and even gives rise to the remarkable suggestion that these cultures are therefore nonrational or prerational. In the East and in the South, the ideas by which people guide their lives are often expressed in song, slogan, and poetry, not disputational prose-and poetry has been banned from philosophy since Plato. In many cultures, philosophy places an overwhelming emphasis on ethics and religion, often expressed in myth and allegory. Such traditions are therefore dismissed as ‘not philosophy’ not only because ethics and religion themselves have been relegated to second place since the onset of the obsession with epistemology that began with Descartes and ‘the New Science,’ but because myth and allegory (except for a few canonized exceptions in Plato) have also been declared to have no role in philosophy. The obsession with logical argumentation and epistemology reached its zenith only recently, with the logical positivists in the era of World War II, when virtually every concern of substance was dismissed as technically ‘meaningless.’ That terrible war may have been global, but the philosophy it provoked in its aftermath became even more provincial. Indeed, as recently as 1989, one of our best and most broad-minded philosophers could write that ‘Philosophy has really arisen only twice in civilization, once in Greece and once in India’ (Arthur Danto, Connections to the World, p. 14).

What we call Western philosophy is studied, of course, by students from around the globe, but instead of adding new dimensions to the overly well-defined Western tradition many or most of those graduating philosophers and philosophy teachers who learned their trade in the pubs and tutorials of Oxbridge or the seminar rooms of the best American and Canadian universities returned to their native cultures and taught, in essence, the same one-dimensional Anglo-American philosophy and the supposedly ‘neutral’ remnants of logical positivism. Local philosophies may have affected the course of instruction in quaint ways, but most culturally specific and significant ideas were dismissed as prerational, intellectually primitive, and unprofessional. Similarly, the best of African philosophy is dismissed as mere ‘ethno-philosophy’ or ‘mythology.’ Even Buddhism and Confucianism, with credentials as ancient as those of the pre-Socratics and on which we have far more substantial extant texts, have been excluded. And one still hears the claim, in not just a few philosophy departments, that the discipline of philosophy is defined, as a matter of power if not by way of tautology, as whatever its practitioners say it is, with some casual and selective references to a few of the great philosophers of the past. 

One obvious complication with the idea of cross-cultural philosophical education is that in reading other philosophical traditions we are not only trying to understand other authors, other languages, other ideas. We are also trying to embed ourselves in another culture, engage with another kind of life. If Hegel was right, that philosophy is the spirit of its time (and place) rendered conceptually articulate, then understanding a philosophy is necessarily understanding the strains and structures of the culture it expresses and through which it is expressed. This raises deep questions about our ability to comprehend such philosophy. It is not enough to know the language (one can readily enough learn Sanskrit, Swahili, or Chinese if one is sufficiently motivated), or even to have something more than a tourist's view of the land, its peoples, and customs. One must, it seems, put oneself ‘in another's skin,’ to see ‘from the inside’ a life that is as routine and unexceptional as our lives are to us. It is, therefore, not enough to show that early Indian philosophers developed an epistemology displaying remarkable similarities to that of the British empiricists or that certain Buddhists had a concept of self resembling some arguments in David Hume or Jean-Paul Sartre. In this sense one can grossly misunderstand a philosophy precisely by ‘understanding’ it, that is, by embracing and absorbing a few seemingly familiar ideas while ignoring the surrounding mysteries and the underlying structure, which, for those who promulgated them, allowed them to make sense.

What we call world philosophy isn't a single discipline or way of thinking. There is no ‘core’ or ‘mainstream.’ It is not variations on a single set of themes expressed or Persian way, now in the Anglo-American way (however that may be understood). For the embarrassing fact long submerged in the tyrannical reign of the ‘history of philosophy’ – that exclusionary artifice invented largely by Hegel to embrace all of European philosophy in a single ‘totalizing’ narrative – is that what we call ‘Western’ philosophy isn't really that at all. Even assuming that one wants to include Greece in what we now call ‘the West,’ it is evident that much of the definitive influence on the great Greeks came from Asia Minor and the Orient, from northern Africa and the migrations of many tribes north and south, east and west. Judaism and Christianity were not, despite their now official designation as such, ‘Western’ religions, nor was Islam, which produced some of the greatest medieval philosophy. In addition to the radical differences in philosophy and culture we find across the globe, we also find, almost everywhere we turn except among a few, soon-to-be-destroyed long-isolated rain forest and African bush peoples, confluences and influences, ideas swapped and shared along with foodstuffs, satins and spices, amalgamated theories evolved from once-warring myths and ideologies, global philosophy as a long-cooking stew instead of a single worldwide intellectual ‘human condition.’ […] 

In this, the second edition of From Africa to Zen, we have added the much needed chapter on Jewish philosophy and the chapter specifically on Buddhism. In deference to our many years and friends in New Zealand, we also decided to add the chapter on indigenous philosophy. Several of the chapters from the first edition have been slightly revised or supplemented. We have been very pleased by the reception of the book and encouraged by many comments to the effect that we have reminded readers of the importance and legitimacy of a number of important but neglected traditions in philosophy. We hope that this second edition continues to encourage a more global and tolerant sensibility regarding the many faces of philosophy.” (From Africa to Zen: An Invitation to World Philosophy. Hg. v. Robert C. Solomon u. Kathleen M. Higgins. Lanham 1993, 2. Auflage 2006, S. IXff.)

In den Ausführungen ist deutlich zu erkennen, dass die gesellschaftliche Situation in den USA Intellektuelle zunehmend dazu gedrängt hat, den eurozentrierten Kanon und die Vorherrschaft der Weißen kritisch zu hinterfragen. Im Rahmen der Philosophiegeschichtsschreibung geht es somit auch um Unterdrückungs- und Marginalisierungsprozesse von Menschen in verschiedenen Kulturen, die eine eigene Stimme erhalten sollen. Der Band zeigt in seiner programmatischen Begründung und der Zusammenstellung, dass es in der globalen Philosophiegeschichtsschreibung in zentraler Weise auch um die politische Dimension der Anerkennung marginalisierter Denkkulturen geht.

(Auszug aus: Elberfeld, Rolf: Philosophiegeschichtsschreibung in globaler Perspektive. Felix Meiner Verlag: Hamburg 2017, S. 303–06)