Rutgers professor to teach course on African, Native American, Latin American philosophy
Alexander Guerrero, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, has been interested in philosophy since he was a child, when his grandfather was subjected to the death penalty in Cuba by the revolutionary government in the early 1960s.
As a result, he began thinking about the idea of the death penalty and what justifications could allow political institutions to hold this power.
Now, as a professor at Rutgers, he recently started a new undergraduate course titled “African, Latin American and Native American Philosophy,” which aims to expand the diversity of philosophies taught at the University.
Guerrero said though the course was an introductory course to the different philosophies, his hope was that it would provide a foundation and pique a student’s interest enough for them to study the philosophies in depth on their own.
He was inspired to create the course because when he entered graduate school, he noticed the lack of representation in the topics of philosophies taught by those at the top departments. While he said he took “rather eclectic” courses in college, he realized that other students might not have the chance to be exposed to the different types of philosophies from anything other than Anglo-American and Western, European origins.
“My sense is that the reason this work isn’t included now stems less from philosophical objections or informed resistance to including it, and more from simple ignorance — people just don’t know about this work,” he said.
With the current focus being Western philosophies in most universities, Guerrero said his course will not take away from these studies — something he refers to as a “zero-sum conflict,” which is when one thing has to go down for the other to go up. Instead, he believes there can be equal exposure to diverse philosophies for students to choose themselves which one they would like to further study.
He also cited the importance of opening up the range of philosophies taught at Rutgers, in order to prevent the field from being narrow or parochial from the concepts being studied.
“One way (to counter racism) might be to notice how what we teach in philosophy might affect who is interested in studying philosophy,” he said.
By expanding on the different philosophies currently taught, he said that students will benefit from the diverse points of view, and that his course is also reflective of the diversity of students who study philosophy.
“I’m hoping that by creating courses of this kind, talking about them and encouraging others to learn this kind of material and teach it, I can help make it less likely that the next generation of philosophers will be ignorant in this way,” he said.