Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU
I was curious what Kwame Anthony Appiah’s lecture was really going to be about. I was expecting and hoping that it would be about the importance of showing respect to others and acknowledging the ways in which they are honorable, or something along those lines. I was definitely not prepared for the philosophical lecture that was to come. I must admit, I completely lost where Appiah was going for most of the lecture. I heard the words “honor” and “respect” innumerable times and it honestly sounded like he was repeating the same thing over and over with slightly different phrasing for the first 20 minutes. (This is not to belittle his intelligence or his field/research, this is only to say that I sadly could not comprehend it as well as I would have liked.)
Later in the lecture, he got to some ideas that I could actually think about, such as the idea of showing respect to soldiers because we perceive them as extremely honorable people. I definitely got more interested when he started talking about the influence of different cultures on each other. I found it very interesting how it was Western missionaries who got the Chinese government to rethink foot-binding. And then on the other hand, when missionaries tried to end female genital mutilation in certain Eastern countries, they were met with resistance and the horrific practice only grew.
I had trouble seeing how this lecture applied at all to our class until I read the last bit of The Medium is the Massage just now. The ideas presented in the book are rather outdated and tend to glorify the “West,” while Appiah’s lecture was very impartial and spoke of facts rather than ideals or biased ideas.