Thinking Failure in the War in Iraq: The Cultural Turn and the Concept of “World”

in Why Philosophy?


This article demonstrates the power of the phenomenological concept of ‘world’, and so the importance of philosophical concepts and philosophers, by considering the case of the U.S. Army’s ‘cultural turn’. After invading Iraq, the U.S. military found that soldiers lacked the training necessary for longterm engagement with a civilian population. Turning to anthropology and sociology, it introduced the concepts of culture, cultural awareness, and cultural sensitivity into its training. We argue that these concepts are crude and inadequate, and that the concept of world does a better job of illuminating the differences and similarities between soldiers’ and civilians’ respective lived systems of meaning. Through this case, we can see why we need philosophers and philosophy.

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