‘Philosophy in…’ is an interview series devoted to exploring the philosophical richness of lesser-studied languages from across the world.
Despite recent acknowledgement of the global nature of philosophical thought, an overwhelming majority of work focuses on philosophy written in either classical languages (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit, Mandarin) or contemporary European languages (German, French, English etc.). Although covering a hugely diverse body of literary philosophy, this focus nevertheless reflects the thought of only a small portion of humanity. This series aims to rectify this narrowness by examining the philosophical ideas of peoples the world over, especially those expressed in the languages, of Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The aim of these interviews is not only to draw attention to the rich philosophical resources of lesser-studied languages and to promote them as media of philosophy, but also to expand the horizons of contemporary philosophy by paying close attention to how concepts translate across languages – sometimes seamlessly, ‘like birds over borders’, sometimes with great difficulty. Paying attention to the differences and similarities between the philosophical word-concepts across languages allows us to take stock of how much of our philosophy is conditioned by the grammatical peculiarities of a particular language or set of languages, and how much have a wider application. The project hus aims to foster a philosophical multilingualism in the conviction that philosophy can only lose out by narrowing its focus to a single language or language family.
Interviews are conducted with philosophers who are experts in the chosen language, and explore some philosophical ideas distinctive of that linguistic culture, the history of their production and the methodology by which these insights are discovered, often in spaces at the interface of literacy and orality. Each interview concludes with a short list of ten philosophical terms in each language, and with suggestions for further reading.