Is Real Inclusiveness Possible?

Justin E. H. Smith in the New York Times:

United-colors-of-benetton-secularism-diversity11Like many institutions that have become more concerned with equality in the past few decades, academic philosophy today aims to be more inclusive. In general, university departments are now striving to consider the experiences and concerns of a broader range of people than have traditionally played the social and professional role of the philosopher. This makes sense. In an increasingly global intellectual landscape, the removal of barriers to entry for previously excluded groups of people and schools of thought is productive and fair.

It may be, however, that the full implications of the project of inclusiveness have not fully been grasped by the people promoting it. A dwindling number believe that it would be enough to simply change the make-up of philosophy departments without changing the content. Increasingly, these two projects are seen as connected: philosophy will not attract long-excluded groups of people if members of these groups do not see themselves — their traditions, standpoints, and idioms — represented in syllabi and in publications. But what would it mean to reconceive philosophy in order to adequately represent these?

Let us start by doing some math: not the number-crunching of human resources or admissions offices, but the mathematics of infinite series.

There is a formula for calculating the value of π that runs as follows:

1 – 1/3 + 1/5 – 1/7 + 1/9 – … = π/4.

This, to be precise, is an alternating series that converges toward a value of the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter.

More here.