Editor’s note: Thomas Paine comes to mind: “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead.”

In an interview that appeared in the New York Times, professor of religion emeritus at Syracuse University John D. Caputo claimed that “reason is a white male Euro-Christian construction.”

Talking about race in philosophy, Dr. Caputo said, “We tend to say “we” and to assume who “we” are, which once simply meant “we white male Euro-Christians.””

After talking about the word “we,” Dr. Caputo continued, ” 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.

“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.”

He then said that white philosophers believe, “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.”


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