[ *] Soraj Hongladarom, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330.

[1]See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason Norman Kemp Smith, transl. (New York: St. Martins, 1929), e.g., A2/B6 - A6/B10.

[2]This can be seen from the sparse number of research done by members of philosophy departments throughout the country. And most of the research written and published within these few decades are expository in nature, and draw mostly upon Buddhist sources. Perhaps a reason for this depends on the individuals in question, but I think the more interesting and deeper reason is that Thai philosophers, being Thai and thus integral parts of the culture, feel that there is really no need to philosophize, as is said above in the text.

[3]See, e.g., Charles Taylor's discussion of the Hegelian concept of Sittlichkeit in Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 376-378.

[4]I have argued for this point extensively in Horizons of Philosophy: Directions for Philosophy in Thailand (in Thai, forthcoming with Chulalongkorn University Press).

[5]Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979), pp. 377-379.

[6]Thus my conception differs from that of Jürgen Habermas, who in "Philosophy as Stand-In and Interpreter" (in Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman, and Thomas McCarthy, eds. After Philosophy: End or Transformation? [Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987], pp. 296-315) argues for a conception of philosophy as one retaining a place for "empirical theories with strong universalistic claims" (310). That is, philosophy will relinquish this place for such theories when they are capable for demonstrating their justified occupation. Thus philosophy in this sense has a strong universalistic overtone. For Habermas it points at a way whereby universalist claims are possible. However, for philosophy to be able to hold such a place seems to presuppose that it could in some way point to the universal, even though philosophy does not in fact grasp it. But that is a very different conception of philosophy than presented here, which is derived from situations where visions of what constitute good life and so on collide, a conception that changes the aim of philosophy from establishing truth to seeing what good could come out of the unfinalizable arguments.

[7]Soraj Hongladarom, Horizons of Philosophy (forthcoming)

[8]Thongchai Winichakul, in Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation (Chiang Mai: Silkworms Books, 1994, pp. 6-9), argues against claims made of traditional Thai scholars of Thai studies that Thai people know about their subject matter than anybody else. I agree with him on this point. However, what seems to be missing from his account is that he does not provide a full reason in support of the thesis, nor does he see any merit in the conduct of Thai studies by Thais on the methodology based on what he calls "the researchers' predetermined notion of what constitutes a Thai worldview" (8). I happen to disagree with him on both points. The first point seems to presuppose that Thongchai disapproves of a Thai studying her own society, but that is ironic, for Thongchai himself is a Thai, and thus necessarily subject to the same criticism he levels on the workings of other Thais studying their own culture. Thongchai supposes that these Thai scholars uncritically think that they know what "Thainess" means, and this forms a core of his criticism, having rejected the idea that "Thainess" can have any fixed meaning (9). But "Thainess" does not have to have fixed meanings in order for these Thai scholars to be able to do what they are doing, and doing well. The word could be defined extensionally, as logicians say. That is, there is no need to find a fixed meaning for the word, what is required is only that there be some tangible criteria to separate all Thai people from others, such as holding Thai passports, living within a certain geographical region, and so on. These requirements are not abstract and are actually in use to find out who is Thai and who is not. To press for any deeper meaning than this seems to me a case of philosophical illusion.

On the second point, Thongchai seems to be denigrating somewhat attempts by Thais to understand themselves. But what is wrong with having such a predetermined notion of Thainess? Apart from the notion of fixed meanings mentioned in the previous paragraph, the works of these scholars can well be seen as manifestations of the Thai community to understand itself, and as such there is hardly any need to justify the meaning of "Thainess" involved in the projects, for that is always assumed. Viewed from this perspective, Thongchai's own works, Siam Mapped, and other works aiming at understanding Thai society or its history, are equally such manifestations. Thongchai, to be sure, has a point in his criticisms, but one has to be aware that in a group's reflecting upon itself there is hardly any point in trying to separate oneself from the reflecting, as if it were possible to stand back outside the circle of one's own cultural identity and to find out which way of looking is the most truthful one.