ABSTRACT

Those who are familiar with the philosophical writings of West are aware of the centrality of modernity to his thought, especially in his advocacy of social justice.1 Although modernity is the period between 1688 and 1789, its significance can be traced all the way back to Columbus' adventure into the New World in 1492. This is because Columbus' sojourn inaugurated European expansionism and the denigration and oppression of people of color both through African slavery and, later, colonialism.2 What does not fully emerge in West's discussion, however, is a sufficiently detailed account and penetrating analysis of the central role of modern philosophical icons such as John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Wilhelm Frederich Hegel in shaping the discourse on race and the oppression of people of color. To provide a historical context for the oppression of people of color, in the sense of slavery and colonialism, and hence a context for our concern with righting those wrongs, requires more than a general account of the intellectual climate upon which such oppression was founded. It requires also giving prominence to those philosophers whose views helped in no small measure to shape the discussion of the issues that subsequently got translated into the public policies that affected people of color. In my view, West does not give as much prominence as he might otherwise to those philosophers; as such, he fails to bring out the implications of their

views for the oppression of people of color and thus for contemporary discussions of social justice.3