Decolonizing Philosophy— From Goa

Do we need to decolonize Philosophy? This question is dependent on the assumption that philosophy is colonized. What does it mean for philosophy to be colonized? Philosophy is a discipline that offers us a testament of freedom but the canon of philosophers is largely male. It has been demonstrated by the feminist thinkers that it is bound by the shackles of patriarchy. Is philosophy still trapped in Plato’s cave? It appears so. Can Goa bring any difference to it? Post-humanists like Michel Serres inspire us to shun aside the chains of anthropocentrism and embrace a posthuman perspective that is both ecological and cosmic. Goa being a traveller’s paradise may be in the best position to develop a travelling decolonial philosophy. There are various ways of colonizing philosophy. It is certainly euro-centric. Philosophy has become a discipline in the service of Western orders of Knowledge. It is then colonized as a commodity in the academic marketplace. This is why philosophizing today has to be a decolonial practice. We may have to begin with the very etymology of the term Philosophy. This etymology favours the myth that philosophy began in ancient Greece and, therefore, is a European heritage. Lewis Gordon manifests the absurdity of such thinking when he argues that the chair does not have to wait for its invention until the English language found the word chair. The reality of a chair was everywhere and there are different terms everywhere for the same. The same is true of philosophy. The Brahminical schools in India called it Dharshana ( vision), similarly, others may have other words. We may have become dharshan-centric or Brahmimic when we relegate all other forms of philosophical schools in India as dharshanas.

The ancient Greeks as a centre of Philosophy was not located in today’s Greece. The Greek philosophy was founded by Greek-speaking people of the Mediterranean who included northern Africans, western Asians, and the southern people of the lands that later became Europe. Ancient Miletus which boasts of the first philosophers is in today’s western Turkey. This is why it is fallacious thinking to think philosophy only erupted in Greece. We need to decolonize what has been misunderstood as a Geek miracle. Even if we choose to walk the line of the Greek miracle. We may have to ask? How did the Greek-speaking Philosophers reach the point of founding philosophy? Certainly, they were dependent on their ancients. Gordan says that it is not certainly us. But he goes on to tell us that it is also ‘ us’. He tells us that ancients were not us in the sense of a single line of cultural inheritance yet it is ‘ us’ in that their achievements belong to all of humanity. We still need to consider the cosmos with our earth and life on it and seriously take into account the non-human role in producing the conditions for philosophizing. This means we have to come to a posthuman perspective to decolonize philosophy. Besides, we are still trapped in what Jacques Derrida might call Phonocentrism which privileges writing cultures over oral ones.

In our country, we have the tendency to see philosophy through the eyes of the Brahmins. We have the challenge as Daya Krishna indicates to give up the very classification of Philosophy as Astika and Nastika as it is permeating with Brahminic bias. We do have the challenge to de-Brahminize philosophy so as to develop resistance to epistemic and political epistemes of the upper caste in our society . Besides, we have the challenge to embrace heterodox philosophies ( Buddhism, Jainism and Charvakas) and subaltern philosophies ( Dalit and tribal). This means we have the challenge to destabilize knowledge/ power relations controlled by the upper castes in our country. This enables us to contest the master narratives of the dominant and open the path for philosophies that are emancipative. Goa and Goans can contribute in this process of decolonization. This is because the master narratives of the upper caste are embedded in the knowledge/power nexus of British colonization. Goa being colonized differently by the Portuguese two hundred years before the British could come to India can open another India, if we care to critically study Portuguese orientalism. This means Goa can become a site that can give voices silenced by British orientalism and later by indic epistemologies of the upper castes. We are still reeling under Western ideas of expansion and conquest. Coloniality is alive and kicking in our society. Colonizers have left us but their place is taken up by neo-colonizers. Goa has the opportunity to become a site of resistance that can link us to the emancipative epistemologies of the global south.

Shiv Visvanathan indicates that the South is seen as a historical and geographical term. It is constructed as the opposite of the North. North is evoked as the centre while the south is deemed as a periphery. North, therefore, is hegemony and South is resistance. Goa is best suited to develop epistemologies of emancipation because, in our post-colonial India, we seem to be manifesting the colonization of our minds where the colonial imperialist is today replaced by a neo-colonialist who is, unfortunately, one of us. This precarious condition has chained us to the imperialism of categories through the Trojan horse of Indic knowledge packaged in Western forms. The colonizers are gone but their mimic men are still with us. Like the colonizers, their mimic men also frantically pursue a civilizing mission that has divided our society into the majority and the minority. The defeated West is living and growing in us. This is why Goa has the best opportunity to let subalternity become an utterance. Goa, therefore, can emerge as a cognitive capital that will not just challenge the hegemony of the West/ Europe but will enable us to provincialize the many ‘ Wests’/ ‘ Europe’s’ as well as the ‘ Castes’ of our mind. We Goans, therefore, have the challenge as well as the opportunity to develop a philosophy that will become a ‘ rite of passage’ for Indians as well as humanity at large to live an emancipative wholesome life. Goa being a traveller’s destination, we have the hope and the promise to generate a travelling philosophy that will emancipate us and others suffering under the yoke of all forms of Neo-imperialisms.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao