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COMMENT | Malaysians and philosophy: Chalk and cheese?

COMMENT | A cursory inspection of the courses offered by and the faculties of local universities will show a dearth in the study of philosophy. There is no dedicated standalone faculty, programme or department currently in existence.

Yet, this is entirely in keeping with the rigid focus of an educational system geared towards quick national development, the sort that Stem courses are meant to facilitate. The result is the evolution of a system prizing the pursuit of hard facts, solid answers and regurgitation.

Amid this backdrop, grassroots efforts are underway to transform the relative lack of attention to this discipline and to encourage the pursuit of philosophy when it can be seen as a bourgeoisie, elitist pursuit – serious scholars can only pursue the subject abroad.

There are many assumptions about the nature of philosophy and many misconceptions that go along with it. The dictionary definition – literally, the love of wisdom – as taken from its Greek roots, can be our starting point.

What we traditionally view as philosophy in its Western sense draws on a storied intellectual genealogy – the legacy of thinkers like Plato, the Stoics, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes and Jeremy Bentham.

On the surface, it seems to be a Eurocentric preserve, given its traditionally heavy association with European schools of thought.

Yet, there are various conceptions of philosophy, and being in Malaysia we have plenty of exposure to non-European perspectives – we are able to draw on Islamic, Buddhist, Chinese and Hindu philosophy, for instance.

With these come different ways of seeing the world...

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