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Vol. 6 No. 1 (2023): General Issue 2023

The “Civilization of the Universal”: The Intersectional, Decolonial, and Phenomenological Revision of Philosophy

December 23, 2023


The intersectionality argument originating in Black feminism challenges the preponderance of “single-axis thinking” (Crenshaw), and the decolonial critique of Eurocentrism challenges the assumption of neutral universality or “zero-point hubris” (Castro-Gómez) on the part of colonial thinking. Inspired by these challenges, this paper brings decolonial, intersectional, and phenomenological thought into conversation to consider how philosophical thinking can operate in light of these risks. The first section distinguishes between the inevitable, existential condition by which we inhabit determinate forms of life, and the pernicious way in which some forms come to masquerade as universal and dominate others. The second section aids in opposing the pernicious by working *through* the existential, showing that it is our very determinacy that fosters the possibility of understanding others and working toward universality on the basis of two arguments. First, we all experience ourselves as one among many, developing inside of an interpersonal reality in which interaction guides us to sense, and this shared structure of perspective renders us different and opens us to the possibility of further transformation through exposure. Second, thinking and determinacy are inevitably linked, as each of us draws on local mechanisms available to us to give expression to meanings we experience as non-local, and the possibility of universality lies on the horizon, in answerability to other pairings of determinacy and meaning. In the course of making these conceptual arguments, the paper flags both the mechanisms by which practical reality could be structured to encourage exposure to the determinacy that supports thinking, and the challenges and hubristic risks we face in doing so.