The most recent episode of the philosophy podcast Philosophy Bakes Bread featured Grace Cebrero (@GraceNonToxic). It was an excellent discussion of how and why inclusion is vital to the pursuit of and joy in wisdom.
Towards the end of the episode, Cebrero posed a question (around the 55 minute mark) for the hosts’ ongoing segment, You Tell Me:
Is it more important that we have “the best people” or a nice variety of people at the table?
I enjoy thinking about this question. I’d like to offer this, perhaps strained, analogy. If I’m operating a brewery claiming I want to create the best beer I can, then it doesn’t make sense for me to not brew as many varieties of beer as possible. Doing so will allow me to discover what variety or style I like the most, am most skilled at creating, others enjoy, is best suited for a particular moment, and that I find most engaging to make. Constantly brewing the same style of beer will certainly lead to a deep understanding of it, the nuances and variations. But what it won’t do is provide breadth of knowledge. Brewing one style of beer, at best, leads to a very specific skill set and depth of knowledge. Also, it’s entirely possible if not likely that only by knowing the other styles can I truly master the one style I feel is primary.
How does this analogy relate to the question posed on inclusion? To my mind, having ‘the best people’ nearly always means drawing from the same well. The default setting until the last fifteen years or so has been wealthy able neurotypical cis-het white men. This would be the equivalent of a brewery only ever brewing according to the Reinheitsgebot—the German Beer Purity Law. Does it make for a good beer? Absolutely. But it’s stricture prevents both brewers and drinkers from experiencing other kinds of beer. It, thus, willfully inhibits knowing.
Because knowledge is greatly determined by experience in a delightfully Möbius fashion (although not exclusively), by not opening up discourse to a variety of experiences we don’t so much curtail our knowledge as degrade our being.
As a radical pacifist, I would also contend doing so isn’t merely some sort of self-limiting or passive or willful ignorance but a kind of moral irresponsibility because doing so not only denies ones own agency but also impedes or cripples another’s as well. Variety is necessary to push thought and action beyond its borders, to transgress, so as to establish new boundaries that will be moved beyond.
It is always more important to have a variety, because the only way to determine ‘the best’ is to draw from the broadest and deepest font.