Non-Cartesian Sums: Philosophy and the African-American Experience Essay

In his article “Non-Cartesian Sums” Charles Mills claims how black philosophy differentiates from western (white) philosophy. My view on Charles Mills “Non-Cartesian Sums: Philosophy and the African-American Experience” is that here is a man who is trying to break down what African American philosophy is to the college student. I feel like this is much need; because almost all African American college students should take a course dealing with the African American origins no matter what course it is. It is important to know the history and origins of your race/ethnic backgrounds.

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I feel like Charles Mills wrote this passage to encourage his black audience and get them to understand what African American Philosophy is and what its aspects are. A lot of people especially African Americans do not bother studying philosophy because in ways it is more geared towards the white audience. In my opinion if a person had the decision to either study psychology, philosophy or sociology Im pretty sure philosophy will be at the bottom of the list.

I feel like Mills wanted African Americans to get into philosophy and challenge themselves to really think about their history and origins other than what they already know or where taught.

Black and white philosophy in my opinion are two different things which should be taught by qualified instructors; you may ask me why just by the color of their skin? I would tell you yes and no. Yes because how can you teach something if you nor your race has experience trials and issues that were at hand. I say no because any person can teach whatever they want or qualify to teach but it will never reach the audience your teaching because once again they can not relate to you. The main issue here is that blacks are so over looked and underrated because of history and the white man has always been “above” the African American society.

I honestly think that Mills arguments are very strong. I say that because here you have a man discussing a black and white issue about a different subject; a subject that not too many blacks want to or decide to talk about. People are willing to always talk about the obvious black and white issues but will be quiet about the nonobvious issues such as black philosophy. As Mills stated at one point of time to be an African American it was to be a tool or property with a soul; which by the white man has led to a whole different contradiction.

As far as a subperson/subpersonhood Mills stated that it is a person although an adult but is it not fully a person. To me this would mean that yes you are a person but I will treat you like your less than nothing because of the color of your skin. This is obviously seen in the world even today in areas like the government or even your local neighborhood. It is sad to say that many people still and always will treat African Americans in such way.

According to Mills there are two different types of Sums; the Cartesian Sum and the Ellisonian Sum. Basically the Cartesian Sum is a crucial episode in the European modernity whereas the Ellisonian Sum is based off the novel “Invisible Man”. Honestly I never read Invisible Man but I do know that it is basically about how whites see this black man as invisible like he does not matter; but not by their human eye but by their inner eye; which according to Mills completely erases his existence.

It also states that since blacks are invisible they have no name and have to cry out and demand their issues such as “Aint I A Woman” by Sojourner Truth. My opinion on this is that here is once again an issue about black and white issues. Where one Sum is geared towards the whites and the other Sum is geared towards blacks and how invisible they are to other races mainly whites.

Some problems of black philosophy is the relationship between the world and racial privileges. Basically if you are not white then you do not have certain privileges according to the world. I find that disturbing and I disagree with that. I state this opinion because, even in today’s society there are plenty of blacks who do not qualify according to society, and by certain people for certain things but, because they have to stand out and prove to the world that they qualify for it then they receive it.

For example a young black woman becoming partner at a law firm headed up by whites. She may have bust her butt to get partner whereas a young white female or even a white male may not have to work as hard as the black female simply because their white and she is not. So for that and many other reasons in totally disagree with that previous statement of the relationship between the world and racial privileges.

All in all this section of Charles Mills book “Blackness Visible” is a very strong argumentative issue about African American Philosophy and Western Philosophy. Mills states many difference issues, problems, and reasons on why the two philosophies are so different. He also states why they are different and why many blacks don’t teach or study African American Philosophy, which to me is a very sad thing because yes it is philosophy which many people stay away from but it is also important as any other African American study.

There are many black philosophers that western philosophy ignores because they feel that African American Philosophy is “political”(Mills 17). Whereas in western political philosophy there are people recognized from Plato to Rawls but when it comes to Black Philosophers, anitsegregationist, abolitionist etc such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr, C.L.R. James and so on they are ignored.

Mills stated these issues for a reason and I feel that many people need to read this book and see what his views are on African American Philosophy. I believe if they read even this section here it will open their horizon on African American Philosophy and will make them critically think about the issues at hand.

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