The downsides are maybe less visible to those of us who are native speakers of English, the current lingua franca of academia. The significance of these downsides varies by discipline and is probably larger for the arts and humanities, including philosophy, than for the sciences. For evidence that Anglophone philosophers, at least, treat English as the lingua franca of philosophy by almost never citing work written in other languages, see my recent article with Huang, Higgins, and Gonzalez-Cabrera.
Here are three disadvantages of treating English as the common language of philosophical scholarship. The current situation puts disproportionate burdens on non-native speakers. This is obvious on reflection, but easy for native speakers to forget.
In their introduction to a special journal issue on " Linguistic Injustice and Analytic Philosophy ", Filippo Contesi and Enrico Terrone highlight some of the burdens. Non-native speakers must spend enormous time learning English or be shut out of global academic discussion. Unless they are highly fluent, they will read more slowly and fail to understand some nuances or idioms. Unless they are highly fluent or exert great effort, their prose might seem awkward or clunky to native speakers.
- Devils Harvest (The Devil Trilogy 3).
- The Splintered Mind: Disadvantages of a Lingua Franca in Philosophy!
- Flight of the Butterflies (Penguin Young Readers, Level 3).
- The Slayers.
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They might also face implicit or explicit prejudice in face-to-face discussion, if they have a heavy accent or a less confident speaking style. I invite my readers who are native English-speaking philosophers to imagine how difficult it would be to write all of their philosophy articles in German and always speak in German at talks and conferences. How much less you would probably publish -- and how much harder it would be to escape the periphery of the field!
In a multi-linguistic regime, everyone would bear linguistic burdens. Native English speakers would sometimes need to read works in other languages to stay at the cutting edge of their field. I had personal experience of this while researching 19th and early 20th century psychology for my book on introspection , which required me to read untranslated works in French, German, Spanish, and I tried! One advantage of English as a lingua franca is that at least some people are relieved of linguistic burdens, even if the distribution of the remaining burdens isn't entirely fair. To this I respond: The burden of reading in another language, especially with new machine-translation tools, is much less than the burden of writing in that language.
Yes, machine translation is far from perfect. The proper reading of machine-translated scholarly articles requires substantial familiarity with the original language, looking side-by-side at the original and the machine translation. But the skills required for reading machine translations are vastly less than the skills required for fluent writing -- perhaps especially writing in the arts and humanities. So although in a multi-lingual regime everyone would bear some language-learning costs, the total costs might be less overall. There would also be an important role for Schliesser-style translator-advocates.
In philosophy, and probably generally across the arts and humanities, the nuances of ordinary language matter. In the sciences, the substance of articles tends to depend on equations, experimental results, and technical vocabulary that is regularized across the discipline. Philosophy, in contrast, seems often to require an ear for linguistic nuance and often relies on concepts that are language-specific.
Consequently, there is a risk that an Anglophone-dominated academic community will agree to, or assume, philosophical views that they would not have agreed to or assumed had a different language been dominant. Much of my academic work, for example, concerns belief.
What is it to believe a proposition? Can someone truly be said to believe something such as that women and men are equally intelligent if they sincerely say it but don't act and react generally as though it is true? Can we know a proposition that we don't quite believe? It is unclear to me to what extent my work, and other philosophers' work on belief, relies on English-language-specific intuitions.
Friends of mine who speak other languages sometimes tell me that the English concept of belief, and perhaps especially the English-language-philosopher's concept of belief, doesn't map neatly and intuitively onto any of the terms in their languages that are ordinarily used to translate "believe", such as glauben in German and creer in Spanish. Similarly, a seminal paper by Edouard Machery and others in has launched a minor subfield exploring the question of whether English-language philosophers' judgments about the referents of proper names -- judgments that are central to philosophy of language as it is often practiced -- are cross-culturally robust.
Drawing on my knowledge of classical Chinese philosophy, some of the concepts those philosophers found natural don't have straightforward translations into English, and reflect ways of seeing or conceptualizing the world that are worth considering. Philosophy should, I think, prize having a wide diversity of terms, concepts, and intuitions about linguistic use, which can be compared and selected among.
If English is too dominant, we risk being excessively predisposed to concepts and patterns of thought that are comfortable in English. This might be true, though presumably to a lesser extent, even for philosophers whose native language is not English, if they conduct most of their philosophical work in English. Robust, partially separate traditions can nurture diversity of thought. Academic philosophy is subject to trends. In the s, Twin Earth thought experiments were hot. In the past five years or so, implicit bias has become hot. There's nothing wrong with this.
Some of my own recent work concerns implicit bias.
But one of the risks of a linguistic monoculture is that scholars tend to read the same things, get caught up in the same trends, and have the same range of thoughts as a result. There's value in having different philosophical cultures whose participants focus on different sets of canonical works, focus on different ranges of questions, and regard different background concepts and ideas as the default -- and who then engage respectfully as equals with scholars from different cultures.
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We lose an important source of cognitive diversity if training in "philosophy of mind", for example, involves the same range of canonical texts for scholars across the world. Here again, the situation in the arts and humanities might differ from the situation in the sciences. In the arts and humanities, including in philosophy, diversity of perspective is intrinsically important. Indeed, I would suggest, the value of the arts of humanities is to a substantial extent constituted by the ability of those disciplines to reveal a wide range of possible thoughts and values.
In Big Bang cosmology and plate tectonics, perhaps, we just want to get at the scientific truth. Although philosophy and the other arts and humanities can and do aim at uncovering truths, they also do something else equally important. They invite readers to challenge their own values and perspectives. They do this not necessarily to replace those values and perspectives with better alternatives, but because part of understanding the human condition is understanding how different things can look when you step outside of your familiar frameworks.
A linguistic monoculture with English at the center deprives academic philosophy, especially native English speakers, of the philosophical and cognitive benefits of vividly engaging alternative literatures and conceptual frameworks from different linguistic traditions. Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at AM.
Labels: sociology of philosophy.
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Wasn't there cross fertilization in the middle ages from translating the Greek authors like Aristotle into Latin from Arabic, or Lucretius into the lingua franca's again from Latin? It goes both ways, or was that an artifact of the times? The monoglots are a recent phenomenon. Austin interrogated German prisoners of war in their native tongue.
Many universities in the UK at some point gave up the foreign language requirements for doing a degree. But the monoglots often expect non-natives to have a perfect grasp of English. I was at a big conference in Switzerland recently, with delegates from more than 60 countries.
"If you can read this sentence, I can prove God exists"
One presenter from the UK gave a talk without regard for the non-native speakers present. His natural speaking pace was very fast; this is the first hurdle for any non-native. And he used six or seven idiomatic expressions, something which is always a problem because learners will interpret these expressions literally e.
Only a monoglot can show such - surely unintended - disregard for his non-native audience.
The downside of this ignorance is that you will only reach a fraction of your audience. For professional jobs there will be various skills to acquire. Learning a new language is not generally one of them however, given that such skills can generally be acquired in various languages. But sometimes language is a requirement, such as to be a translator or often to be a government diplomat.
gohu-takarabune.com/policy/localizador/fojeq-rastrear-meu.php I support the advancement of non-whites and females in the realm of philosophy, not because I want to fix perceived injustices to such peoples, but rather because I think that white men have proven to be crappy stewards of the field. I believe that science is extremely hindered today given that philosophy has not yet developed various generally accepted principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology from which to guide the institution of science.
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