Reverse Engineering the Canon

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


History of philosophy is taught nearly exclusively in chronological order with a very narrow canon. This canon has come under increasing pressure: too sexist, too racist, too eurocentric. There is a call for a more diverse and inclusive selection of authors, specifically more women and non-western thinkers, which have been unjustly excluded and neglected. Students, teachers, and researchers are attempting to reform this rigid “dead white males” canon, but there is no clear consensus about what the new standard should be. In practice, the old canon is still being used, with some ad hoc alternative substitutions and additions. We cannot set this right through some kind of historical vengeance in the context of a first introductory survey course, but we can teach the students to reflect and engage critically with the canon. We inherited this canon and must now deal with it: whether we approve or disapprove it, we cannot simply ignore or bypass it, given how much current discussions (and teaching materials) depend on it. We ourselves are part of the history of philosophy, i.e. our perspective on the history of philosophy has been formed by this history itself: it is our history. In the context of my Comenius project “Reverse Engineering the Canon” I propose to turn around the traditional approach 180 degrees, by approaching the history of philosophy explicitly from within the present, going backwards into history. In my presentation I will outline the risks and opportunities of expanding the canon and my alternative approach.
Period12 Dec 2020
Event titleOZSW 2020
Event typeConference
LocationTilburg, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational