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  • Reply to Robert Neville
  • Brian Bruya (bio)

Many thanks to Robert Neville for commenting on my article. Because the comments were brief and largely ampliative, my response will also be brief and take off from his points.

First, a clarification. Professor Neville says that "the point is not to bring in more Chinese (and other ethnic groups with minority status in America) philosophers." This is stated correctly in the sense that my main point is not about identity diversity, but the statement could be misconstrued as an opposition on my part to increasing identity diversity in philosophy programs. I want to prevent such a misconstrual by stating plainly that I think the demographic makeup of American philosophy departments should more or less reflect the demographic makeup of American society. Because this is currently not the case, initiatives for increasing identify diversity are necessary. My main point is that cultural diversity of subject matter is another necessary kind of diversity and should be kept distinct from ethnic diversity of faculty.

Second, Professor Neville extends my problem solving definition of philosophy to include visions for how to live. This makes sense to me. In fact, it underpins my view of the value of comparative philosophy. In my edited volume The Philosophical Challenge from China (2015), contributors explain detailed ways in which resources from the Chinese tradition can help address problems in current mainstream philosophy. As I make clear in my introduction to that book, one way of addressing a problem is to demonstrate its inadequacy and to broaden the perspective to aspects that may have been neglected or even gone unnoticed. Scott Page convincingly demonstrates that more diversity of perspectives allows for different approaches to solving a [End Page 1021] problem, but in philosophy we have to consider revising the problem itself, and different perspectives are required for that as well. The reason another tradition, such as the Chinese tradition, is able to open our eyes to neglected or unnoticed aspects of our own philosophy is that other traditions, while addressing more or less the same broad issues faced by humanity, have developed different conceptual centers of gravity, different ways of slicing up the world with discrete terminology, and different notions of final ends. In other words, they have different visions of how to live. Bringing them into our current conversations will inevitably shift the conversations in new directions, not only helping to address problems but prompting us to reconceive the problems themselves.

Brian Bruya


Bruya, Brian, ed. The Philosophical Challenge from China. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. [End Page 1022]


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