Recalling dead white men with sincere gratitude
Many dead white men play an incredibly important role in my life. I can, without needing to waste one precious second on a superfluous grammatical pause, cite countless examples of these dead white men, and recall their continued presence in my life.
In the first few weeks of my first year of studies here at Rhodes University in 1997, I was introduced to the ideas of Plato, even if that introduction was mediated by a secondary text, Seven Theories of Human Nature, written by another white man, Leslie Stevenson, and taught to me by one of the most important not-dead white men I had met at Rhodes University, Francis Williamson, my very first philosophy lecturer.
Later, with the shortcuts of undergraduate philosophy studies behind me, I had to read and engage some of the primary writings of Plato, taught to me by another not-dead white man, Marius Vermaak, who was easily the most important and influential philosophy teacher I have had – ever – with all due respect to all the amazing white men in my philosophical life that I had encountered here at Rhodes University, and, later, during health-challenging winters of discontent, at that strange place called Oxford University.
Studying The Republic in my honours year of philosophy here at Rhodes challenged my intuitive commitment to a basic conception of democracy, and instilled in me an early conviction – and one that I only revised much later when I was less childish than a drunk student dancing on the tables at The Vic – that not all epistemic agents are to be trusted, let alone to be regarded as equally capable of being the leaders of a democratic society that could govern us in a manner conducive to serving the interests of all citizens, equally and maximally.
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