Adams, Carol, and . The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

2000, New York City: Continuum.

Back Matter: The Sexual Politics of Meat argues that what, or more precisely who, we eat is determined by the patriarchal politics of our culture, and that the meanings attached to meat eating are often clustered around virility. We live in a world in which men still have considerable power over women, both in public and in private. Carol Adams argues that gender politics is inextricably related to how we view animals, especially animals who are consumed. Further, she argues that vegetarianism and fighting for animal rights fit perfectly alongside working to improve the lives of disenfranchised and suffering people, under the wide umbrella of compassionate activism.

Comment: This is a clear and easily accessible introductory text on the relationship of feminism to vegetarianism. The text is compelling and interesting, making a chapter or two excellent for an introductory course that concerns feminism, gender politics, other animals, or vegetarianism. The text in its entirety would be excellent in an upper division course concerning ecofeminism.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and . Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time)

2010, WW Norton & Company.

Back matter: “A welcome attempt to resurrect an older tradition of moral and political reflection and to show its relevance to our current condition.” — John Gray “Cosmopolitanism is… of wide interest-invitingly written and enlivened by personal history… Appiah is wonderfully perceptive and levelheaded about this tangle of issues.” — Thomas Nagel “Elegantly provocative.” — Edward Rothstein “[Appiah’s] belief in having conversations across boundaries, and in recognizing our obligations to other human beings, offers a welcome prescription for a world still plagued by fanaticism and intolerance.” — Kofi A. Annan, former United Nations secretary-general “[Appiah’s] exhilarating exposition of his philosophy knocks one right off complacent balance… All is conveyed with flashes of iconoclastic humor.” — Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature “An attempt to redefine our moral obligations to others based on a very humane and realistic outlook and love of art… I felt like a better person after I read it, and I recommend the same experience to others.” — Orham Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Comment: The introduction provides a particularly good entry text to ethics, race and cosmopolitanism.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and . In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

1992, Oxford University Press.

Back matter: Africa’s intellectuals have long been engaged in a conversation with each other, and with Europeans and Americans about what it means to be African. At the heart of these debates on African identity are the seminal works of politicians, creative writers and philosophers from Africa and its diaspora. In this book, Appiah draws on his experiences as a Ghanaian in the New World to explore the writings of these African and African-American thinkers and to contribute his own vision of the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century. Appiah sets out to dismantle the specious oppositions between “us” and “them,” the West and the Rest, that have governed so much of the cultural debate about Africa in the modern world. All of us, he maintains, wherever we live on the planet, must explore together the relations between our local cultures and an increasingly global civilization. Combining philosophical analysis with more personal reflections, Appiah addresses the major issues in the philosophy of culture through an exploration of the contemporary African predicament.

Comment: Chapters 1 & 2 can be particularly useful in teaching on the social construction of race.

Darby, Derrick, and . Reparations and Racial Inequality

2010, Philosophy Compass 5 (1): 55-66.

Abstract: A recent development in philosophical scholarship on reparations for black chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation is reliance upon social science in normative arguments for reparations. Although there are certainly positive things to be said in favor of an empirically informed normative argument for black reparations, given the depth of empirical disagreement about the causes of persistent racial inequalities, and the ethos of ‘post-racial’ America, the strongest normative argument for reparations may be one that goes through irrespective of how we ultimately explain the causes of racial inequalities. By illuminating the interplay between normative political philosophy and social scientific explanations of racial inequality in the prevailing corrective justice argument for black reparations, I shall explain why an alternative normative argument, which is not tethered to a particular empirical explanation of racial inequality, may be more appealing.

Comment: This text provides a clear overview and introduction to debates about reparations for decendents of African American slaves. It also surveys quite a bit of empirical data surrounding racial inequalities. It would fit well in a course that considered questions of social justice, racial inequality, or reparations.

Guenther, Lisa, and . Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives

2013, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Abstract: Prolonged solitary confinement has become a widespread and standard practice in U.S. prisons – even though it consistently drives healthy prisoners insane, makes the mentally ill sicker, and, according to the testimony of prisoners, threatens to reduce life to a living death. In this profoundly important and original book, Lisa Guenther examines the death-in-life experience of solitary confinement in America from the early nineteenth century to today’s supermax prisons. Documenting how solitary confinement undermines prisoners’ sense of identity and their ability to understand the world, Guenther demonstrates the real effects of forcibly isolating a person for weeks, months, or years. -/- Drawing on the testimony of prisoners and the work of philosophers and social activists from Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis, the author defines solitary confinement as a kind of social death. It argues that isolation exposes the relational structure of being by showing what happens when that structure is abused – when prisoners are deprived of the concrete relations with others on which our existence as sense-making creatures depends. Solitary confinement is beyond a form of racial or political violence; it is an assault on being.

Comment: This text serves as both a clear introduction to the history of punishment and imprisonment in the United States, as well as a clear introduction to phenomenological method. Portions of the text on the experience of social death in solitary confinement would make excellent additions to introductory courses on prisons and punishment. Some chapters would also be fitting on classes concerning race and mass incarceration.

Haslanberg, Sally, and . Resisting reality: Social Construction and Social Critique

2012, OUP USA.

Publisher’s Note: Contemporary theorists use the term “social construction” with the aim of exposing how what’s purportedly “natural” is often at least partly social and, more specifically, how this masking of the social is politically significant. In these previously published essays, Sally Haslanger draws on insights from feminist and critical race theory to explore and develop the idea that gender and race are positions within a structure of social relations. On this interpretation, the point of saying that gender and race are socially constructed is not to make a causal claim about the origins of our concepts of gender and race, or to take a stand in the nature/nurture debate, but to locate these categories within a realist social ontology. This is politically important, for by theorizing how gender and race fit within different structures of social relations we are better able to identify and combat forms of systematic injustice.
Although the central essays of the book focus on a critical social realism about gender and race, these accounts function as case studies for a broader critical social realism.

Comment: The book as a whole explores the interface between analytic philosophy and critical theory. As it is a collection of essays, particular chapters can easily be used separately, some serving as introductory, others as more advanced readings. It could be of interest for undergraduate or postgraduate courses in political philosophy, philosophy of language and philosophical methodology.

Jiang, Tao, and . A buddhist scheme for engaging modern science: The case of taixu

2002, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 29(4): 533-552.

Summary: In this paper Tao Jiang examines Taixu’s effort to revitalize Buddhism through an engagement with modern science. The main argument offered by Jiang is that a nonsubstantive view of the world is in fundamental agreement with many cutting-edge scientific theories and, therefore, Buddhism can indeed offer a new perspective in the debate between the practices of modern science and their social critics.

Comment: Good introductory paper to Chinese philosophy of science. The topic is highly specific and specialised, making this paper useful in postgraduate courses or, as the itself poses no difficulty of comprehension for more junior students, in specialised undergraduate classes.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn, and . Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction

2004, London: Psychology Press

Publisher’s note: Feminist approaches to art are extremely influential and widely studied across a variety of disciplines, including art theory, cultural and visual studies, and philosophy. Gender and Aesthetics is an introduction to the major theories and thinkers within art and aesthetics from a philosophical perspective, carefully introducing and examining the role that gender plays in forming ideas about art. It is ideal for anyone coming to the topic for the first time.

Organized thematically, the book introduces in clear language the most important topics within feminist aesthetics:

  • Why were there so few women painters?
  • Art, pleasure and beauty
  • Music, literature and painting
  • The role of gender in taste and food
  • What is art and who is an artist?
  • Disgust and the sublime.

Each chapter discusses important topics and thinkers within art and examines the role gender plays in our understanding of them. These topics include creativity, genius and the appreciation of art, and thinkers from Plato, Kant, and Hume to Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. Also included in the book are illustrations from Gaugin and Hogarth to Cindy Sherman and Nancy Spero to clarify and help introduce often difficult concepts. Each chapter concludes with a summary and further reading and there is an extensive annotated bibliography.

Carolyn Korsmeyer’s style is refreshing and accessible, making the book suitable for students of philosophy, gender studies, visual studies and art theory, as well as anyone interested in the impact of gender on theories of art.

Comment: Chapter 5 is particularly useful in teaching on art theories. It offers an interesting review of art theories from a feminist perspective, noting the gendered character of existing definitions. It may be good to teach it alongside Brand's ‘Glaring Omissions in Traditional Theories of Art’ to best bring out these issues. Secondly, it inspires the question: given the problematic exclusionary character of art history and theory, would it not be better if we did not have a definition of art which we can use to exclude? The value of the feminist art discussed in the chapter lies largely in its ability to expose the biases present in the artworld and expressed in theories of art. Thus the fact that artists tend to create works which challenge existing theories might be in fact desirable.

Misak, Cheryl, and . The American Pragmatists (The Oxford History of Philosophy)

2013, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: Cheryl Misak presents a history of the great American philosophical tradition of pragmatism, from its inception in the Metaphysical Club of the 1870s to the present day. She identifies two dominant lines of thought in the tradition: the first begins with Charles S. Peirce and Chauncey Wright and continues through to Lewis, Quine, and Sellars; the other begins with William James and continues through to Dewey and Rorty. This ambitious new account identifies the connections between traditional American pragmatism and twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy, and links pragmatism to major positions in the recent history of philosophy, such as logical empiricism. Misak argues that the most defensible version of pragmatism must be seen and recovered as an important part of the analytic tradition.

Comment: A good primary reading for courses on pragmatism or the history of American philosophy. Useful for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Olberding, Amy, and Philip J. Ivanhoe (eds.). Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought

2011, SUNY Press

Publisher’s note: Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought is the definitive exploration of a complex and fascinating but little-understood subject. Arguably, death as a concept has not been nearly as central a preoccupation in Chinese culture as it has been in the West. However, even in a society that seems to understand death as a part of life, responses to mortality are revealing and indicate much about what is valued and what is feared. This edited volume fills the lacuna on this subject, presenting an array of philosophical, artistic, historical, and religious perspectives on death during a variety of historical periods. Contributors look at material culture, including findings now available from the Mawangdui tomb excavations; consider death in Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions; and discuss death and the history and philosophy of war.

Comment: This volume contains a number of excellent essays on mortality as it appears in Chinese philosophy. It would be useful in a history of Chinese philosophy course, or to provide an additional perspective in a course on philosophy of death, immortality and the afterlife.