SUMMER SCHOOL 2021

IN AND OUT – QUESTIONING THE PHILOSOPHICAL CANON

The question of authority in philosophy, that is, the question of which past philosophers are worth studying and being taught is as old as philosophy itself. However, from the late 1960s, in philosophy, like in art history and literary criticism, we can witness the emergence of ever-louder voices requiring a more systematic justification of the philosophical canon. Even the term itself is relatively rarely used before the 1980s. It started circulating as a reference to those philosophers and their works which are generally regarded as fundamental in the study of philosophy, roughly from Socrates to Wittgenstein, and has become useful as a common name for the object of controversy.

The philosophical canon has been challenged from various standpoints and with various scopes. “Analytic” philosophy would give prominence to some philosophers who would, in turn, be neglected by the philosophers in the so-called “continental” tradition (e. g. Hume and Frege). However, philosophers from both camps could agree on the fundamental importance of many others (e. g. Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, etc.). There are also partial attacks on the philosophical canon coming from Marxism. A different kind of attacks on the canon come from critical race theory and feminism: the canon is accused of being racist, narrow-minded, sexist, and xenophobic, consisting of exclusively “dead, white, European males”. Some proponents of these theories require at least an augmentation of the canon. On the other hand, some require a more radical revision, such as replacing the male-only canon with a women-only canon.

The aim of this year’s summer school is to cover multiple topics regarding the philosophical canon. On the one hand, we will explore the philosophical and historical processes that led to the development of the philosophical canon and investigate different aspects of theoretical attacks on and defenses of it. On the other hand, we will tackle some more particular questions. Is questioning the canon a sign of a crisis? Who and why should be included in or excluded from the canon? Is there a need for a canon? These topics will be addressed from both historical and philosophical perspective.

Poster PDF