Blake Neff, Daily Caller, July 3, 2015
A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.”
Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics.
“‘White’ is of the utmost relevance to philosophy, and postmodern theory helps us to see why,” Caputo says in the interview. “I was once criticized for using the expression ‘true north.’It reflected my Nordo-centrism, my critic said, and my insensitivity to people who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, no such thing had ever crossed my mind, but that points to the problem. We tend to say ‘we’ and to assume who ‘we’ are, which once simply meant ‘we white male Euro-Christians.’
The end result of critiquing whiteness, Caputo suggests, is the realization that the supposed “reason” underlying philosophy is just another form of white privilege . . . or something of that nature.
“I think that what modern philosophers call ‘pure’ reason–the Cartesian ego cogito and Kant’s transcendental consciousness–is a white male Euro-Christian construction,” he says. “White is not ‘neutral.’ ‘Pure’ reason is lily white, as if white is not a color or is closest to the purity of the sun, and everything else is ‘colored.’ Purification is a name for terror and deportation, and ‘white’ is a thick, dense, potent cultural signifier that is closely linked to rationalism and colonialism. What is not white is not rational. So white is philosophically relevant and needs to be philosophically critiqued–it affects what we mean by ‘reason’–and ‘we’ white philosophers cannot ignore it.”