published on October 18, 2017
Diotima and the Inclusive Classroom
Despite a growing awareness that the philosophical canon consists almost exclusively of white male philosophers, it can be tempting to ignore the problem—especially for those who lack either the time or the expertise to fix it. Yet philosophical practice regularly requires us to raise questions and acknowledge issues even when we lack solutions. Engaging students in a discussion about dismissive or exclusionary comments that they notice (or ought to have noticed) in the reading is a good place to start; it provides insight into the origins of the problem and acknowledges its wide-reaching impact. For example, analyzing an editorial comment about Diotima during a class on Plato’s Symposium allows us to recognize and reconsider our assumptions about the impact of women on philosophy, a reflection that becomes even more salient when we realize that neither Plato nor the Socrates depicted in his dialogues seem to find anything ridiculous about the suggestion that the theory stems from a woman. This easy intervention provides us with a blueprint for envisioning similar responses in other courses.