Expanding the canon part n

We have discussed several times (see also here and here) about the problem of how Indian philosophers should be part of normal classes on Medieval philosophy, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, etc. etc. Podcaster and scholar of Neoplatonism and of Falsafa Peter Adamson makes several interesting points on the Blog of the APA, in this post.

At least two points are worth repeating:

  1. You might tell yourself you have covered the important medieval philosophers if you’ve done Anselm, Abelard, Avicenna, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. That’s an impressive line-up, no doubt. […] But do these big names really have a greater claim on our attention than Eriugena, Hildegard of Bingen, John Buridan, Meister Eckhart, and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi?
    My answer would be no. The fact that such authors are not, or not yet, “canonical” has little to do with historical and philosophical merit and much to do with the historiographical priorities and limited perspectives of previous generations. These generations wrote our textbooks, designed the syllabi for courses we took as students, and decided what to edit, study, and translate—and in so doing, shaped out sense of what is too “important” to leave out. In reality, there are simply too many important thinkers in every period to be fit into any undergraduate historical course, in both the historical and philosophical sense of “important.” […] So when we’re exposing students to any period in the history of philosophy, we should not tell ourselves that we only have time to visit the highlights. In fact we should admit that we don’t even have time to do that. […] This realization might be liberating. If we give up on the idea that teaching history of philosophy is about paying a brief visit to the most famous thinkers, that will free us up to prioritize other concerns.

  2. And it would be more than reasonable to insist on including women philosophers and philosophers from non-European traditions. I suspect that many instructors are reluctant to cover such topics, even if they sympathize with the goal, precisely because the authors and texts in question are so unfamiliar. But as I’ve been pleased to discover doing the podcast, there are plenty of translations and there is plenty of secondary literature out there for all but the most abstruse and under-researched topics. […] Thanks to scholars who have been plowing these fields for us, prepping a class session on the Upanishads or al-Farabi is going to be a lot easier than you might think.

  3. What do you think? Should we now be free to leave Thomas the Aquinas out of our classes and to include Pārthasārathi instead?

    Should you not know Peter Adamson’s podcasts yet, you are strongly encouraged to check on them. The ones on Indian Philoosphy are here.
    (cross-posted on the Indian Philosophy Blog)

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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