​​Indigenous Thoughts Network 



APPENDIX 2 - Range of Answers Provided for E-mail questionaire - Question 2

APPENDIX 2  - Representational Answers for Question 2


Question # 2 - A number of areas of philosophy were a bit more general in their application (modern philosophy – which I understand to be the 16-17th centuries in western Europe) and or continental philosophy; are there philosophers in your area of interest that do, or could potentially contribute to the project of understanding the nature of indigenous thought?

 I believe that my intention of Question # 2 was to look at general courses in philosophy.  As a generalist philosopher-teacher was it possible to make links with indigenous material in either analytical or continental philosophy courses.  The question more simply put could of been "are there any philosophers in your area of interest that could contribute to the understanding of the nature of indigenous thought.  


(Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Phenomenology as a discipline is distinct from but related to other key disciplines in philosophy, such as ontology, epistemology, logic, and ethics. Phenomenology has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but it came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others. Phenomenological issues of intentionality, consciousness, qualia, and first-person perspective have been prominent in recent philosophy of mind.)

I know that David Abram brings together Phenomenology (especially by Merleau-Ponty) with some indigenous viewpoints. I know that Coulthard makes fruitful use of Fanon’s philosophy in order to think about the indigenous situation in Canada.  

(Hermeneutics as the methodology of interpretation is concerned with problems that arise when dealing with meaningful human actions and the products of such actions, most importantly texts. As a methodological discipline, it offers a toolbox for efficiently treating problems of the interpretation of human actions, texts and other meaningful material. Hermeneutics looks back at a long tradition as the set of problems it addresses have been prevalent in human life, and have repeatedly and consistently called for consideration: interpretation is a ubiquitous activity, unfolding whenever humans aspire to grasp whatever interpretanda they deem significant. Due to its long history, it is only natural that both its problems, and the tools designed to help solve them, have shifted considerably over time, along with the discipline of hermeneutics itself. The article focuses on the main problem areas and presents some proposals that have been put forward for tackling them effectively.)

ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY - "are already using indigenous insights and approaches. Our work must get rid of the Western idea that humans can manage it all for their own immediate gratification, and must open to a world much bigger than we are. We must acknowledge the fundamental importance of philosophical traditions connected to the land. Many environmental philosophers of colonial descent are avid for indigenous insight. "

  • Prof. Whyte:
  •  Among my areas, environmental ethics is the obvious one.


  • "Prof. Stich.  Stich is primarily known in philosophy for his work in the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, epistemology, and moral psychology. In philosophy of mind and cognitive science, Stich (1983) has argued for a form of eliminative materialism—the view that talk of the mental should be replaced with talk of its physical substrate. Since then, however, he has changed some of his views on the mind. See Deconstructing the Mind (1996) for his more recent views. In epistemology, he has explored (with several of his colleagues) the nature of intuitions using the techniques of experimental philosophy, especially epistemic intuitions that vary among cultures—see Stich (1988) and Stich, et al. (2001). This work reflects a general skepticism about conceptual analysis and the traditional methods of analytic philosophy. In The Fragmentation of Reason he briefly sketched a form of epistemic relativism "in the spirit of pragmatism."[5]"
  • He and Shaun Nichols are responsible for a theory of how humans understand the mental states of ourselves and others, or mindreading, which they present in Nichols and Stich (2003). Their theory is a hybrid, containing elements of both the simulation theory and theory theory, and also aims to explain the mental architecture that enables pretence."
  • "​Stich, as mentioned.​ A lot of philosophy of language, discussing Chomskian ideas about linguistic and cognitive universals. And in the other direction ideas due to Whorf and others that the form of language influences the form of thought. These latter ideas do not have many defenders these days, so it is perhaps about time they came back.
  • No​t much. I have had some contact with a professor in the linguistics department at UBC who works on the structure of West Coast Salish languages, in particular their way of expressing quantifiers, which tend to be seriously different. (There is a rather general working assumption here, widely shared, that all languages have the same jobs to do and all find their own ways of doing them, subject to constraints of universal grammar that probably have their roots in the human nervous system.)


  • Philosophy of laugher & humor is one of my lesser research areas and I have occasionally taught courses in it.


  • As far as I know no one in my area of interest is comparing ancient philosophy to indigenous thought, and a quick search on the Philosopher's Index didn't turn up anything.


HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY: Modern Philosophy - 

  • [Name withheld] a former student of mind, himself a native, would be good at relating the philosophy of 16th-17th C. & the Enlightenment to native thought
  • Thinking of western European thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries, metaphysics of some <Descartes> might be useful as providing a sharp contrast to indigenous thought.  That of others <possibly Spinoza and/or Leibniz> could be a resource.  Spinoza is pantheistic, but pretty obscure and hard to grapple with. I've sometimes taught these thinkers, but could claim no expertise regarding Spinoza or Leibniz.


  • I work on philosophy of science, and some people in this area are interested in archaeology and how in how archaeologists should interact with First Nations peoples.
  • I teach a number of courses on biology and society, and on eugenics more specifically.  In building EugenicsArchive.ca, we explicitly attended to parallels between training schools for "the feebleminded" and residential schools--see the module on Institutions and institutionalization there.  But that is not focused on indigenous thought, but on the treatment of indigenous people.  I think we could do more here to articulate and incorporate indigenous ideas about eugenics into how this is taught, and I'll give some thought to how to do this. 


  • how consciousness is rooted in history and how conversations with others helps expand the horizon of our own consciousness.  (Hans Gadamer)
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer is the decisive figure in the development of twentieth century hermeneutics—almost certainly eclipsing, in terms of influence and reputation, the other leading figures, including Paul Ricoeur, and also Gianni Vattimo (Vattimo was himself one of Gadamer's students). Trained in neo-Kantian scholarship, as well as in classical philology, and profoundly affected by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Gadamer developed a distinctive and thoroughly dialogical approach, grounded in Platonic-Aristotelian as well as Heideggerian thinking, that rejects subjectivism and relativism, abjures any simple notion of interpretive method, and grounds understanding in the linguistically mediated happening of tradition.
  • Employing a more orthodox and modest, but also more accessible style than Heidegger himself, Gadamer's work can be seen as concentrated in four main areas: the first, and clearly the most influential, is the development and elaboration of a philosophical hermeneutics; the second is the dialogue within philosophy, and within the history of philosophy, with respect to Plato and Aristotle in particular, but also with Hegel and Heidegger; the third is the engagement with literature, particularly poetry, and with art; and the fourth is what Gadamer himself terms ‘practical philosophy’ (see Gadamer 2001, 78-85) encompassing contemporary political and ethical issues. 
  • The ‘dialogical’ character of Gadamer's approach is evident, not merely in the central theoretical role he gives to the concept of dialogue in his thinking, but also in the discursive and dialogic, even ‘conversational’, character of his writing, as well as in his own personal commitment to intellectual engagement and exchange. Indeed, he is one of the few philosophers for whom the ‘interview’ has become a significant category of philosophical output (see Hahn 1997, 588-599; also Gadamer 2001, 2003). Although he identified connections between his own work and English-speaking ‘analytic’ thought (mainly via the later Wittgenstein, but also Donald Davidson), and has sometimes seen his ideas taken up by thinkers such as Alasdair McIntyre (see MacIntyre 2002), Ronald Dworkin (see Dworkin 1986), Robert Brandom (see Brandom 2002), John McDowell (see McDowell 1996, 2002), and especially Richard Rorty (Rorty 1979), Gadamer is perhaps less well known, and certainly less well-appreciated, in philosophical circles outside Europe than are some of his near-contemporaries. He is undoubtedly, however, one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, having had an enormous impact on a range of areas from aesthetics to jurisprudence, and having acquired a respect and reputation in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, that went far beyond the usual confines of academia.
  • I work in continental philosophy.  I think there must be interesting interconnections, though I am afraid I know too little of indigenous thought in order to lay them out here.  I know that David Abram brings together Phenomenology (especially by Merleau-Ponty) with some indigenous viewpoints. I know that Coulthard makes fruitful use of Fanon’s philosophy in order to think about the indigenous situation in Canada.  But I think that’s all I know. ​ 


  • that is interested in the "Other," most notably Phenomenology and Hermeneutics.


  • I'm really not sure what that would look like: there's no very obvious connection with the Frankfurt School (maybe the critique of instrumental reason?); metaethics might be different, if there is indigenous philosophical work on the nature of norms?  But I don't know anyone by name who makes these connections.  I thought Dale Turner's book (This is Not a Peace Pipe) had certain similarities to the idea of 'immanent critique' in Marx and critical theory; but I asked him about it when he was giving a talk at Nipissing, and I gather that's not an angle or link he's looked at.  (He would be a great person for you to talk to, though, if your research isn't limited to Canadian universities).
  •  Juliette Christie (who is currently working at an institution of the lower mainland) developed a course on philosophy and indigenous thought while she was at UVic. I am not sure if she is continuing to think about this, but she might be worth contacting.  Juliette Christie (who is currently working at an institution of the lower mainland) developed a course on philosophy and indigenous thought while she was at UVic. I am not sure if she is continuing to think about this, but she might be worth contacting.  (Uvic)
  • I have come to understand that it is dangerous for me to apply mainstream philosophy to indigenous thought. For example, there is the temptation to apply Aristotelian virtue ethics to Anishnaabe concepts like Debwewin which, on the surface, look identical to virtues.  There are some valuable connections to be drawn, I think. But for me the insight will be in the differences - which can be too easily covered over by someone like me if I am not extremely careful.
  • If you mean contemporary, living philosophers, then I don't know of anyone in my areas who I know to have the relevant expertise.  That itself is sort of shocking.  




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