Students urged to take Indian philosophy paper by pwip

Image Description: Library windows in the evening.

The Oxford group people for womxm* in philosophy have put out an open essay calling on FHS Philosophy students to consider balloting to study the Indian Philosophy paper during their final year.

pwip have told the Oxford Student that they have made the open essay to fill in a perceived information gap that prevents students from feeling informed enough to select the paper. If too few people sign up, the faculty can decline to offer the new specialist paper. They have also said:

“ We support the philosophy department in continuing to offer papers that create a more diverse and decolonised curriculum alongside providing extra information about less familiar topics to facilitate students in making informed decisions. this pushes the changes past token efforts and respects the lecturers’ work and overall endeavour.” 

The essay, penned by one of the groups’ original members, alicehank winham, argues that balloting for the paper is ‘influential’ in supporting a ‘critical, global, reflective and decolonized’ approach to philosophy in Europe and Northern America. This paper has only been an option since last year, when it was undersubscribed but was still run by the faculty. 

In the essay, endorsed by pwip and not the philosophy department, alicehank writes: 

“Engaging with any more evidently socio-culturally distant or marginalised tradition provides

material to reflect on your own assumptions, practices, and methodology.”

ze continues:

“Such an opportunity could be a welcome aid for philosophers who seek robust arguments and the space of logical possibility, who seek to understand how philosophy relates to the world, and even those who seek to do well on their final exams.”

In the essay, alicehank also cites Dr Jessica Frazier, a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, who explains that the paper’s approach is ‘not about exploring the history of a particular tradition’ so much as ‘exploring philosophical ideas to develop better theories’. 

Frazier also described taking the paper as:

“Doing philosophy, but with radically fresh insights.”

According to an email circulated by the philosophy faculty, two emails will need to be sent out to the faculty. ‘Both emails should be sent to James Knight, with the subject line “Indian Philosophy special subject 2021-22”. The deadline for receipt of these emails is noon on Monday of week 1 of Trinity Term (26th April). All students applying will be told if they have been allocated a place by Friday of week 3 of the same term’. Some joint honours students will need to inform their tutors earlier this week, though they should contact their tutors to confirm this. The full essay can be read here.

In a statement, the Chair of the Philosophy Faculty Board Professor Christopher Timpson and the Director of Undergraduate Studies Professor Tom Sinclair told the Oxford Student:

“We are very pleased that students are being encouraged to consider taking the Indian Philosophy Special Subject. This is the second time that this Special Subject has been offered and we would be delighted to see an increased uptake. Other Special Subjects being offered this year are Feminist Theory, and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. We are also next term offering an introductory course of lectures in Chinese Philosophy which may be of interest to many.”

At the request of pwip and alicehank, we have written these names in lower case, in order to respect their wish to “make people question who controls their language”, as they told us in a statement.

Image Credit: Iona Shen