Nealing Down and Listening to a Good Friend

One of my dearest friends, and a Black philosopher, told me yesterday that he simply wished to be human. We acknowledged that this wish underlies my work at an HBCU and his personal life. I wish it for my students and him and he wishes it for his personal life, family and fellows. Needless to say, five centuries of the idea of race cannot be erased, but we can ask questions about how to generate a world of possibility where perhaps none have existed. Perhaps, this generation of possibility in contemplation is the reason why many are drawn to do philosophy. We are permitted to ask questions and transgress the concrete for the possible. The more interesting questions we both face either directly or indirectly is: Where in the history of European thought did philosophy become complicit in racism? Where did these philosophical ideas start? What interruptions in philosophy have their been to denounce this racist legacy to create new possibilities for philosophy that lurk under the surface of its racist history (especially for me: British Empiricism, Kant, Hegel, Arendt and Husserl)? What possibilities for philosophy can there be now? Only by doing philosophy are we intensely alive, more alive than people walking on the street who unreflectively echo the concrete rather than asking what is possible (Recall Cornel West saying this in the back of the cab in the film, The Examined Life).

Part of the problem of racism is that the habits that give rise to it are concrete and historical, and in seeking denialism of this very concrete and historical reality in the here-and-now, whites never bother to ask about what is possible to learn from our Black Brothers and Sisters–it is the possibility of being human. However, you can’t stop here and help yourself to the rhetoric of being-human or being-American as if we have reached some summit free of the concrete and historical habits of racism. Instead, philosophical thought must transgress the concrete and historical habits time and time again, producing reflections that steer and guide the possibility of philosophy itself to envision a world in which persons are onto-relational potentials. I am a philosopher and only can contribute its development. Artists and writers must do the same in their own traditions. Rethinking the past to alter the future–that’s our goal culturally and collectively. This is philosophy’s reconstructive moment alongside many other reconstructive moments of practices that need to transgress the concrete for what is possible.

By J. Edward Hackett

J. Edward Hackett, Ph.D is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the United States. He specializes in American Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Ethics. He is the author of several books: Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology: An Exploration of Moral Metaphysics (2018), Phenomenology in the 21st Century (2016, coedited with J. Aaron Simmons), House of Cards and Philosophy (2015), and a novel, Flight of the Ravenhawk (2019). Hackett received his Ph.D. in 2013 from Southern Illinois University focusing on phenomenology and pragmatism, and his M.A. in analytic philosophy from Simon Fraser University in 2008. His philosophical work has been translated in Spanish and Russian. Recent work has paid attention to the overlap between Catholic and Methodist personalism in Scheler and Brightman, process metaphysics, the metaphysical underpinnings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the ethics and political philosophy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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