“Heidegger was a Nazi.” What now?

“B was a bigot” is a phrase that raises various questions. We can say it of various figures, both dead and alive. But this kind of phrase is used for various purposes. In what follows, I’d like consider some implications of this phrase and its cognates. – Let me begin with what might seem a bit of a detour. Growing up in Germany, I learned that we are still carrying responsibility for the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. Although some prominent figures declared otherwise even in the Eighties, I think this is true. Of course, one might think that one cannot have done things before one was born, but that does not mean that one is cut off from one’s past. Thinking historically means, amongst other things, to think of yourself as determined by continuities that run right through you from the past into the options that make your future horizon. The upshot is: we don’t start from scratch. It is with such thoughts that I look at the debates revolving around Heidegger and other bigots. Is their thought tainted by their views? Should we study and teach them? These are important questions that will continue to be asked and answered. Adding to numerous discussions, I’d like to offer three and a half considerations.*

(1) The question whether someone’s philosophical thought is tainted or even pervaded by their political views should be treated as an open question. There is no a priori consideration in favour of one answer. That said, “someone’s thought” is ambiguous. If we ask whether Heidegger’s or Frege’s (yes, Frege’s!) thought was pervaded by their anti-semitism, the notion is ambiguous between “thought” taken as an item in psychological and logical relations. The psychological aspects that explain why I reason the way I do, often do not show up in the way a thought is presented or received. – Someone’s bigotry might motivate their thinking and yet remain hidden. But even if something remains hidden, it does not mean that it carries no systematic weight. There is an old idea, pervasive in the analytic tradition, that logical and political questions are distinct. But the idea that logic and politics are distinct realms is itself a political idea. All such issues have to be studied philosophically and historically for each individual thinker. How, for instance, can Spinoza say what he says about humans and then say what he says about women? This seems glaringly inconsistent and deserves study rather than brushing off. However, careful study should involve historically crucial ties beyond the question of someone’s thought. There are social, political and institutional continuities (and discontinuities) that stabilise certain views while disqualifying others.

(2) Should we study bigots? If the forgoing is acceptable, then it follows that we shouldn’t discourage the study of bigots. Quite the contrary! This doesn’t mean that I recommend the study of bigots in particular; there are enough understudied figures that you might turn to instead. It just means that their bigotry doesn’t disqualify them as topics of study and that if you’re wondering whether you should, that might in itself be a good reason to get started. This point is of course somewhat delicate, since history of philosophy is not only studied by disinterested antiquarians, but also for reasons of justifying why we endorse certain views or because we hope to find good or true accounts of phenomena. – Do we endorse someone’s political views by showing continuities between their thoughts and ours? Again, that depends and should be treated as an open question. But I don’t think that shunning the past is a helpful strategy. After all, the past provides the premises we work from, whether we like it or not. Rather we should look carefully at possible implications. But the fact that we appropriate certain ideas does not entail that we are committed to such implications. As I said in my last post, we can adopt thoughts, while changing and improving them. That fact that Heidegger was a Nazi does not turn his students or later exegetes into Nazis. However, once we know about the bigotry we should acknowledge as much in research and teaching.

(3) What about ourselves? Part of the reason for making the second remark was that I sometimes hear people say: “A was a bigot; so we shouldn’t teach A. Let’s rather teach B.” While I agree that there are huge numbers of understudied figures that might be taught instead of the same old classics, I don’t think that this line of argument helps. As I see it, it often comes out of the problematic idea that, ideally, we should study and teach only such figures that we consider morally pure. This is a doubtful demand not only because we might end up with very little material. It is also problematic because it suggests that we can change our past at will. Therefore, attempts at diversifying our teaching should not be supported by arguments from supposedly different moral status; rather we should see that globalisation requires us to eventually acknowledge the impact of various histories and their entanglements. – We don’t teach Heidegger because we chose to ignore his moral status. We teach his and other works because our own thought is related to these works. This has an important consequence for our own moral status. Having the histories we do, our own moral status is tainted. In keeping with my introductory musings, I’d like to say that we are responsible for our past. The historical continuities that we like and wish to embrace are as much our responsibilities as those that we wish to disown. Structurally oppressive features of the past are not disrupted just because we change our teaching schedule.

I guess the general idea behind these considerations is this: The assumption that one can cut off oneself from one’s (philosophical) past is an illusion. As philosophers in institutional contexts we cannot deny that we might be both beneficiaries of dubious heritage as well as suffering from burdens passed down. In other words, some of the bigotry will carry over. Again, this doesn’t mean that we are helpless continuants of past determinants, but it means that it is better to study our past and our involvements with it carefully rather than deny them and pretend to be starting from scratch.

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* See especially the pieces by Peter Adamson and Eric Schliesser.

Should we stop talking about “minor figures”?

Every now and then, I hear someone mentioning that they work on “minor figures” in the history of philosophy. For reasons not entirely clear to me, the very term “minor figures” makes me cringe. Perhaps it is the brutally belittling way of picking out the authors in question. Let’s face it, when we’re speaking of “minor figures” we don’t necessarily mean “unduly underrated” or “neglected”. At the same time, the reasons are not clear to me indeed, since I know perfectly well that especially people who work on them do anything but belittle them. Nevertheless, the use of the term indicates that there is something wrong with our historiographical and linguistic practice. In what follows, I want to have a stab at what’s wrong, first with “minor”, then with “figures”.

Let me begin by saying that I deem most of the work done on “minor figures” very important and instructive. Projects such as Peter Adamson’s “History of Philosophy without any Gaps” or Lisa Shapiro’s and Karen Detlefsen’s “New Narratives” constantly challenge our canon by providing great resources. What’s wrong with the talk of “minor figures” then? I guess the use of the term “minor” confirms the canonical figures in their role as “major figures” or even geniuses. Even if I shift the focus to some hardly known or even entirely anonymous person, the reference to them is mostly justified by being an “interlocutor” of a “major” figure. Who begins to study Walter Chatton not because of William Ockham or Burthogge not because of Locke? The context that these minors are supposed to provide is still built around an “absurdly narrow” set of canonical figures. But even if researchers might eventually study such figures “in their own right”, the gatekeeping practice among book and journal editors doesn’t seem to change anytime soon. In other words, attempts at diversification or challenging of the canon paradoxically stabilize it.

Now you might argue that there is good reason to focus on major figures. Presumably they are singled out because they write indeed the best texts, raise the most intriguing issues, present the best arguments or have the greatest impact on others. Although I don’t want to downplay the fact that most canonical authors are truly worth reading, we simply aren’t in a position to know. And you don’t even need to pick hardly known people such as Adam Wodeham or Giovanni Battista Giattini. Why not prefer Albert the Great over the notorious Aquinas? Why not read Burthogge or Zabarella in the first-year course? Really, there is nothing that would justify the relatively minor status irrespective of existing preferences.

But perhaps the central worry is not the talk of “minor”. What seems worse is the fact that we focus so much on figures rather than debates, questions or topics. Why not work on debates about intentionality or social justice rather than Plato or Sartre? Of course you might indeed have an interest in studying a figure, minor or major. But unless you have a particular biographical interest, you might, even as a dedicated historian of philosophy, be more likely to actually focus on a topic in a figure or on the debate that that person is participating in. I see two main reasons for shifting the focus from figures to debates. Firstly, philosophy does not really happen within people but between them. Secondly, the focus on a person suggests that we try to figure out the intention of an author, but unless you take such a way of speaking as a shorthand for textual analysis, your object of study is not easily available.

By the way, if we shift the focus from people to debates, we don’t need the distinction between minor and major any longer. When I studied Locke, it became natural to study figures such as Burthogge. When I studied Ockham, it became natural to study figures such as Adam Wodeham or various anonymi. But perhaps, you might argue, our reason for focussing on figures is more human: we’re interested in what people think rather than in the arguments in texts alone. When we make assumptions, we think along with people and try to account for their ideas as well as their shortcomings and inconsistencies. But even if that is true, we shouldn’t forget that people are not really ever geniuses. Their thoughts mature in dialogue, not least in dialogue with minor figures such as ourselves.

What are we on about? Making claims about claims

A: Can you see that?

B: What?

A: [Points to the ceiling:] That thing right there!

B: No. Could you point a bit more clearly?

You probably know this, too. Someone points somewhere assuming that pointing gestures are sufficient. But they are not. If you’re pointing, you’re always pointing at a multitude of things. And we can’t see unless we already know what kind of thing we’re supposed to look for. Pointing gestures might help, but without prior or additional information they are underdetermined. Of course we can try and tell our interlocutor what kind of thing we’re pointing at. But the problem is that quite often we don’t know ourselves what kind of thing we’re pointing at. So we end up saying something like “the black one there”. Now the worry I’d like to address today is that texts offer the same kind of challenge. What is this text about? What does it claim? These are recurrent and tricky questions. And if you want to produce silence in a lively course, just ask one of them.

But why are such questions so tricky? My hunch is that we notoriously mistake the question for something else. The question suggests that the answer could be discovered by looking into the text. In some sense, this is of course a good strategy. But without further information the question is as underdetermined as a pointing gesture. “Try some of those words” doesn’t help. We need to know what kind of text it is. But most things that can be said about the text are not to be found in the text. One might even claim that there is hardly anything to discover in the text. That’s why I prefer to speak of “determining” the claim rather than “finding out” what it is about.

In saying this I don’t want to discourage you from reading. Read the text, by all means! But I think it’s important to take the question about the claim of a text in the right way. Let’s look at some tacit presuppositions first. The question will have a different ring in a police station and a seminar room or lecture hall. If we’re in a seminar room, we might indeed assume that there is a claim to be found. So the very room matters. The date matters. The place of origin matters. Authorship matters. Sincerity matters. In addition to these non-textual factors, the genre and language matter. So what if we’re having a poem in front of us, perhaps a very prosaic poem? And is the author sincere or joking? How do you figure this out?

But, you will retort, there is the text itself. It does carry information. OK then. Let’s assume all of the above matters are settled. How do you get to the claim? A straightforward way seems to be to figure out what a text is intended to explain or argue for. For illustrating this exercise, I often like to pick Ockham’s Summa logicae. It’s a lovely text with a title and a preface indicating what it is about. So, it’s about logic, innit? Well, back in the day I read and even added to a number of studies determining what the first chapters of that book are about. In those chapters, Ockham talks about something called “mental propositions”, and my question is: what are mental propositions supposed to account for? Here are a few answers:

  • Peter Geach: Mental propositions are invoked to explain grammatical features of Latin (1957)
  • John Trentman: Mental propositions form an ideal language, roughly in the Fregean sense (1970)
  • Joan Gibson: Mental propositions form a communication system for angels (1976)
  • Calvin Normore: Mental propositions form a mental language, like Fodor’s mentalese (1990)
  • Sonja Schierbaum: Ockham isn’t Fodor (2014)

Now imagine this great group of people in a seminar and tell them who gave the right answer. But note that all of them have read more than one of Ockham’s texts carefully and provided succinct arguments for their reading. In fact, most of them are talking to one another and respectfully agree on many things before giving their verdicts on what the texts on mental propositions claim. All of them point at the same texts, what they “discover” there is quite different, though. And as you will probably know, by determining the claim you also settle what counts as a support or argument for the claim. And depending on whether you look out for arguments supporting an angelic communication system or the mental language humans think in, you will find what you discover better or worse.

So what is it that determines the claim of a text?* By and large it might be governed by what we find (philosophically) relevant. This is tied to the question why a certain problem arises for you in the first place. While many factors are set by the norms and terms of the scholarly discussion that is already underway, the claims seem to go with the preferred or fashionable trends in philosophy. While John Trentman seems to have favoured early analytic ideal language philosophy, Calvin Normore was clearly guided by one of the leading figures in the philosophy of mind. Although Peter Geach is rather dismissive, all of these works are intriguing interpretations of Ockham’s text. That said, we all should get together more often to discuss what we are actually on about when we determine the claims of texts. At least if we want to avoid that we are mostly greeted with the parroting of the most influential interpretations.

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* You’ll find more on this question in my follow-up piece.

What is synthetic philosophy? A response to Eric Schliesser

Much current philosophy is done in what could be called a piecemeal fashion. Rather than plotting huge systems of thought, many of us work on details by trying to tackle issues that can be handled in the length of a paper. Of course, the details or pieces are still parts of larger projects, but most of the time these projects are not philosophical systems. Nevertheless, there are some philosophers whose approach strikes me as resulting in a sort of system. My favourite example is Ruth Millikan. Not only did and does her work shape the landscape in philosophy of mind and language; rather her biofunctional approach provides underpinnings that run through all the details of her work and that even inspire novel accounts in other fields of philosophy. Perhaps it is no coincidence that other philosophers working in the tradition of naturalism appear systematic in a similar fashion. In an intriguing blog post on the work of Daniel Dennett, Eric Schliesser has coined the term synthetic philosophy:*

“Synthetic philosophy is the enterprise of bringing together insights, knowledge, and arguments from the special sciences with the aim to offer a theoretically (reasonably) unified, coherent account of complex systems and connect these to a wider culture or other philosophical projects (or both). It may, in turn, generate new research in the special sciences or a new science connected to the framework adopted in the synthetic philosophy.”

Note that Eric Schliesser does not simply speak of a kind of survey work or journalism about science. Rather he takes this approach to be a philosophical category or trend in nuanced opposition to analytic philosophy. In highlighting the traits of unification and connection to a wider culture, his description strikes me as a tacit appeal to the old-fashioned idea of a philosophical system. However, a distinctive feature of synthetic philosophy is that it is to be informed by what he calls “special sciences”. Having a “kinship” with early modern natural philosophy, its current version promises “new cognitive tools … for the special sciences and philosophical reflection, including (ahh) the development of useful new myths.”

But what kind of category is synthetic philosophy? Given that we are still in the grip of a highly problematic divide between analytic and continental philosophy, baptising emerging trends is not an innocent matter. Such baptising or coinage is involved in canonising. So what are the boundaries of synthetic philosophy? Is it a trend within or going beyond the divide? In view of Millikan, Dennett and others that people have named in discussion, this trend seems to emerge from naturalism in its Darwinian branches. “Naturalism” is said in many ways, but if unification and being informed by the special sciences are its main traits then we should perhaps be hopeful that it surpasses some of the old divisions. That said, I have at least two worries about Eric Schliesser’s coinage:

  1. Which of the special sciences does Eric Schliesser have in mind? Are the humanities included?** Aiming at unified explanations, many branches of naturalism would probably tend to exclude them. The term “special sciences” is of course itself problematic in that it lends itself to restrictions or even reductionism. But if there are restrictions in place, they should be there for a reason. As it stands, it is unclear whether synthetic philosophy is supposed to be merely a certain way of doing philosophy (building explanatory systems and being informed by special sciences) or the systematic development of a programme (unifying certain branches of naturalism).
  2. If we want to think about categorising emerging branches of philosophy, it might be problematic to tie these branches too closely to names of individual philosophers.*** In addition to the danger of feeding into the genius cult, there are good reasons to resist seeing philosophical or intellectual developments more generally as the achievements of a single person. One reason is that doing philosophy is essentially dialogical, happening between and not inside people. But if we accept this point, then what is it that distinguishes synthetic philosopjy from the piecemeal fashion alluded to in the beginning?

Now if we accept that philosophy is not the work of geniuses, then what is it that creates the synthesis in synthetic philosophy? If it is not the person, is it perhaps a programme after all? Or the union of philosophy and other disciplines? But which ones? Why is synthetic philosophy not just philosophy? – One way of tackling these worries would be perhaps to drop the label “synthetic philosophy” and just continue to speak of (Darwinian) naturalism. Another way would be to see this trend indeed as a “way of doing” philosophy. But then there can’t be a principled reason to exclude any field of study. In this case philosophical conversations invoking arguments from history or literature would be in the same business as those invoking biological or physical theories: synthetic philosophy.

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* Note that he notes that Herbert Spencer might have introduced the term. See also ES’s previous posts on Rachel Carson and Peter Godfrey-Smith.

** ES suggests this when saying that “Dennett brings Darwinian theory to bear on and connects existing work in offering empirically informed, but still speculative accounts of the origins of mind, language, and life (most of which already deeply influenced by Darwinism) and to open up a new meta-science of culture, memetics, that can draw upon and re-orient existing cultural studies and human/social sciences.”

*** Of course, ES is well aware of this problem and alludes to this when noting that in “Dennett’s case, Darwinisms provides the synthesizing glue. This is no coincidence because Darwin himself is the hard-to-classify (among the) last natural philosopher(s)/naturalists or (among) the first synthetic philosopher(s) (if Spencer had not jumped ahead of him).”

On saying “we” again. A response to Peter Adamson

Someone claiming that we today are interested in certain questions might easily obscure the fact that current interests are rather diverse. I called this phenomenon synchronic anachronism. While agreeing with the general point, Peter Adamson remarked that

“… as a pragmatic issue, at least professional philosophers who work, or want to work, in the English speaking world cannot easily avoid imagining a population of analytic philosophers who have a say in who gets jobs, etc. The historian is almost bound to speak to the interests of that imagined population, which is still a rough approximation of course but not, I think, a completely empty notion. In any case, whether it is empty or not, a felt tactical need to speak to that audience might explain why the “we” locution is so common.”

I think this is a rather timely remark and worth some further discussion. Clearly, it suggests a distinction between an indexical and a normative use of the word “we”. Using the word in the former sense, it includes all the people who are reading or (in the given cases) are studying history of philosophy. Thus, it might refer to a quite diverse set of individuals. In the latter sense, however, the word would pick out a certain group, specified as “analytic philosophers”. It is normative in that it does not merely pick out individuals who are interested in certain issues; rather it specifies what any individual should be interested in. Locutions with this kind of normative “we” are at once descriptive and directive. So the sentence “Currently, we have a heated debate about the trolley problem” has to be taken in the same vein as the sentence “We don’t eat peas with our fingers.” It states at once what we (don’t) do as well as what we should (or should not) do.*

Now where does the normative force of such locutions originate? Talking about historical positions, such “we” locutions seem to track the relevance of a given topic for a dominant group, the group of philosophers identifying as analytic. The relevance of such a topic, however, is reinforced not by the mere fact that all members of the dominant group are interested in that topic. Rather it is (also and perhaps crucially) reinforced by the fact that certain members of that group are quite powerful when it comes to the distribution of jobs, grants, publication space and other items relevant to survival in academia. This is worth noting because, if correct, it entails that the perceived relevance of topics is due to political power in academia. Some might say that this is a truism. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that topics of discussion are reinforced or excluded in this way. For if this is the case, then it follows that what Peter Adamson calls “tactical” and “pragmatic” has immediate repercussions on the philosophy and historiography itself. Being interested in topics that we are interested in might promote your career. Sidestepping them might be harmful. This being so, the career prospects related to a topic dictate its philosophical value.

Does this mean that someone writing “the history of the trolley problem” will merely do so out of tactical considerations? Or should we even encourage aspiring academics to go for such topics. It’s hard to tell, but it’s worth considering this practice and its implications. It might mean that our interest in certain topics, however genuine, is not reinforced because we all find these topics interesting, but because certain members of the dominant group are perceived as liking them. Successfully deviating from topics resonating with a dominant group, then, might require the privilege of a permanent job. Thus, if we really want to promote diversity in teaching and research on what is called the canon, it would be morally dubious to ask junior researchers to take the lead.

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* Ruth Millikan discusses such pushmi-pullyu locutions at length in ch. 9 of her Language: A Biological Model.

Learning from medievalists. A response to Robert Pasnau

In a recent blog post, Robert Pasnau makes a strong case for designing a canonical survey in medieval philosophy. He rightly points out that there is a striking shortage of specialists in medieval philosophy in philosophy departments:

“As things are, it seems to me that our colleagues in other fields have been persuaded that there’s a lot of interesting material in the medieval period. But they have not yet been persuaded that the study of medieval philosophy is obligatory, or that it’s obligatory for even a large department to have a specialist in the field. And no wonder this is so, given that we ourselves have failed to articulate a well-defined course of study that strikes us as having canonical status.”

If this is correct, the lack of jobs for medievalists is at least partly due to the lack of a medieval canon. While I agree that the lack of jobs is problematic, I am not entirely convinced by the reasons provided. Could we really expect the number of hires to go up, if we had more agreement on a set of canonical texts? Of course, Robert Pasnau’s reasoning is not that simplistic. The idea is that presenting a set of good canonical texts could persuade our colleagues that we have an obligation to study and teach those texts. As he points out, such a set of texts would be canonical in that they are united by a “shared narrative”; but unlike early modernists, for instance, medievalists have “failed” to produce such a narrative.

Is it really true that we failed to produce such a narrative? I am not sure. Firstly, I don’t think that canons can be designed at will; rather they evolve in conjunction with larger ideologies. Secondly, looking at histories of philosophy, there is an ample set of narratives surrounding the supposed rise and decline of “scholastic synthesis”. This and other narratives are embedded in a larger story about the dominance of theology in the Middle Ages and the subsequent secularisation and scientific revolution. Of course, all these narratives are rightly contested, but they clearly form the basis of a canon that is still pervasive in our surveys. In this grand narrative, medieval thought is seen as theological rather than philosophical. Accordingly, I think that the shortage of jobs for medievalists is not due to the lack but to the dominance of the canon. What separates medieval and early modern studies is not that only the latter has a set of canonical texts. Rather it’s the fact that only early modern philosophy is seen as bound up with the rise of science.

What to do? I think Robert Pasnau is right that we should think carefully about texts that we want to make available and teach in our courses. But rather than introducing these texts as part of a new canon, it might be more persuasive to use them to challenge the existing narratives about medieval thought and the rest of philosophy. In this regard, it’s perhaps crucial to stress the continuities between the medieval and other periods when thinking about selections of texts:* One way to do this would be to challenge the supposed conjunction of early modernity and science by encouraging people to study more medieval natural philosophy – a field that seems enormously fruitful but largely understudied. The same goes for late scholasticism and the relation of discussions inside and outside the schools in the 16th and 17th centuries. The list of possible moves to look for continuities could be extended, but the central point is this: rather than designing a competing canon for medieval philosophy, we should convince our colleagues that their stories are not intelligible without invoking the medieval discussions.

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* It is worth noting that Robert Pasnau has contributed to this endeavour himself more than once, for instance, in his Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671, his works on Aquinas and his Theories of Cognition in the Later Middle Ages as well as in his translations for the Cambridge Translations Series.

The purpose of the canon

Inspired through a blog post by Lisa Shapiro and a remark by Sandra Lapointe, I began to think about the point of (philosophical) canons again: in view of various attempts to diversify the canon in philosophy, Sandra Lapointe pointed out that we shouldn’t do anything to the canon before we understand its purpose. That demand strikes me as very timely. In what follows I’d like to look at some loose ends and argue that we might not be able to diversify the canon in any straightforward manner.

Do canons have a purpose? I think they do. In a broad sense, I assume that canons have the function of coordinating educational needs. In philosophy, we think of canons as something that should be known. The same goes for literature, visual arts or music. Someone who claims to have studied music is taken to have heard of, say, Bach. Someone who claims to have studied philosophy is taken to have heard of, say, Margaret Cavendish. Wait! What? – Off the top of my head, I could name a quite few people who won’t have heard of Cavendish, but they will have heard of Plato or Descartes and recognise them as philosophers. But why is someone like Cavendish not canonical? Why hasn’t the attempt to diversify the canon already taken some hold?

If you accept my attempt at pinning down a general purpose, the interesting question with regard to specific canons is: why should certain things be known? A straightforward answer would be: because someone, say, your teacher, wanted you to know. But I don’t think that we can rely on the intentions of individuals or even groups to pin down a canon. Aquinas is not canonical because your professor likes him. – How, then, do canons evolve? I tend to think of canons as part of larger systems like (political) ideologies. Adapting David L. Smith’s account of ideology, I would endorse a teleofunctional account of canons. (Yes, I think what Ruth Millikan said about language as a biological category can be applied to canons.) Canons survive or have stability at least so long as they promote specific educational purposes linked to a system or ideology. Just think of the notorious Marx-Engels editions in Western antiquaries.

One of the crucial features of a teleofunctional understanding of canons is that they are not decided on by a person or a group of people, not even by the proverbial “old white men”. Rather they grow, get stabilised and perhaps decline again through historical periods that transcend the lives of individuals or groups. If canons get stabilised by promoting certain educational purposes, then the evolution of a canon will depend on the persistence of the educational purposes that they promote. I don’t know what would tip the balance in favour of a certain diversification, but at the moment I rather fear that philosophy itself might lose the status of serving an educational purpose. At least, if the dominant political climate is anything to go on.

If any of this is remotely correct, what are we to think of attempts to diversify the canon? I am not sure. I am myself in favour of challenging the canon. I’m not sure that this will alter the canon. It might or might not, depending perhaps on how much potential for challenge is built into the canon already. We currently witness a number of very laudable attempts to make new material and interpretations available. And as Lisa Shapiro argues, the sheer availability might alter what gets in. At the end of the day, we can make a difference in our courses and in what we write. How that relates to the evolution of the canon is an intriguing question – and one that I’d like to think about more in the near future. But what we should watch out for, too, is how the (political) climate will affect the very status of philosophy as a canonical subject in universities and societies.