Melioristic genealogies and Indigenous philosophies – De Cruz and de Smedt (2022)

Melioristic genealogies and Indigenous philosophies

Helen De CruzJohan De Smedt

First published: 05 December 2022


According to Mary Midgley, philosophy is like plumbing: like the invisible entrails of an elaborate plumbing system, philosophical ideas respond to basic needs that are fundamental to human life. Melioristic projects in philosophy attempt to fix or reroute this plumbing. An obstacle to melioristic projects is that the sheer familiarity of the underlying philosophical ideas renders the plumbing invisible. Philosophical genealogies aim to overcome this by looking at the origins of our current concepts. We discuss philosophical concepts developed in Indigenous cultures as a source of inspiration for melioristic genealogy. Examining the philosophical concepts of these communities is useful because it gives us a better idea of the range of ethical, political, and metaphysical approaches that exist in the world. Members of western societies do not get a clear view of this range, in part because living in large groups presents its own constraints and challenges, which limit philosophical options. We argue that features of Indigenous philosophies, such as egalitarianism and care for one’s natural environment, are not inevitable byproducts of Native material conditions and lifestyles, but that they are deliberate forms of conceptual engineering. We propose that comparative philosophy is an integral part of the genealogical project.

Melioristic genealogies and Indigenous philosophies – De Cruz – The Philosophical Forum – Wiley Online Library