Monthly Archives: March 2017

Nationalism, Universalism and Diversity

The below is posted at Daily Nous.


What should be the relation of a philosophy department to the country it is in? For example, is there a sense in which a philosophy department in America ought to be distinctly American, tied more closely to the history, culture and identity of America than to that of other countries? Or should the fact that the department is in America be irrelevant to the philosophical work that is done in the department?

I will call the former view, that the department ought to be distinctly American in some sense, nationalism. And I will call the latter view universalism.

So according to nationalism, philosophy departments in, say, America, Mexico, India, Germany, Egypt and so on, though they will have a great deal of similarities and points of overlap, nonetheless will be different in their philosophical projects since they are interwoven with their home countries in different ways. According to universalism, however, philosophy departments in different countries ought to be the same in terms of content, since philosophy departments ought to transcend the contingent fact of their location.

A couple of clarifications. First, nationalism in the sense I am talking about is distinct from patriotism. The difference between a nationalist and a universalist isn’t who loves their country more. A universalist can be as patriotic as a nationalist. The difference is about the philosophical relevance of the country the department is in to the work of the department.

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