July 19, 2009

I made a point of becoming competent in Islamic philosophy after arriving in Egypt

Re: Amartya Sen on his idea of justice out of London—by Hasan Suroor
Tusar N. Mohapatra on Sun 19 Jul 2009 04:11 PM IST Profile Permanent Link

[But it’s an interesting question, how we decide the nationality of a philosopher. To take one example, I’d call Santayana an American philosopher, but not Whitehead. Although Santayana was pretty “exotic” for an American university professor, he did spend much of his childhood in Boston. And though he left America permanently at some point, he evolved and worked at his best in the United States, though he was nowhere near as attached to the country as most Americans who are reading this.

Whitehead is an interesting case, since he didn’t really blossom qua philosopher until reaching Harvard. But come on, he was an Englishman to the core.

What about T.S. Eliot? I consider him an American with English affectations, though perhaps that’s too harsh… People do have the right to emigrate, after all, and Eliot did his poetic work in England.

Was Plotinus an “Egyptian” philosopher, or a “Roman” philosopher? I would say Egyptian. But if he had moved to Rome as a small boy without studying in Alexandria, I might change my mind. Many of the Roman Emperors, after all, were not Roman in the least, but Rome was their theater of action, and hence we call them Roman.

Ethnicity should not be a major part of the story. Whenever an international newspaper says “Cleopatra was actually Greek,” there’s always some annoyed educated Egyptian writing a good letter to the editor to point out that, whatever her DNA looked like, Cleopatra’s family had been in Egypt for generations, she grew up in Egypt, etc. Cleopatra was certainly Egyptian, as much as I’m American rather than Czech.

What I consider myself to be is an American expat. Maybe if I get to be about 60 and haven’t moved, it would be time to realize that the majority of my life had been spent in Egypt and the vast majority of my work done here, and perhaps I could count as Egyptian at that point. I now haven’t set foot in the USA for two-and-a-half years (a personal record for me). second, Middle Eastern or American? from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)] Reply

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