CFP: Canonical Pluralism: New Approaches to Teaching the History of Philosophy

Submission deadline: November 20, 2024

Topic areas


Call for Papers (EPAT Special Issue & Workshop)

“Canonical Pluralism: New Approaches to Teaching the History of Philosophy”

In contrast to academic philosophy, teaching philosophy consists largely of reading philosophers from the past. This approach presupposes selecting works and authors that culminate in a ‘canon’: a set of works or authors from a specific period deemed outstanding by individuals at a later period. The formation of a canon is inherently subject to tension: While the criteria for canonical relevance reflect the outcome of a collective deliberation process, guided by philosophical experts and educators, these criteria are prone to perpetuating the social biases of a dominant tradition, social group, or class. This tension is particularly pertinent in the educational context. On one hand, philosophy educators face the task of conveying thought traditions that preserve an intellectual history. On the other hand, educators ought to minimize the risk of adopting methods that perpetuate problematic social biases. To balance these aims, this special issue explores pluralistic approaches to canonical relevance. Canonical pluralism, as we understand it, suggests that in order to minimize social biases, philosophy education requires pluralistic standards of ‘relevance,’ reflected and integrated into the content of canons and teaching methods.


We are interested in heterodox methods in the history of philosophy and using their approaches to reflect on novel ways in how to understand ‘canonical relevance.’ We are particularly interested in three recent developments in the history of philosophy. First, various philosophers have made significant efforts to deliver interpretations sensitive the social biases in canonical authors or have argued for the importance of reading past philosophers against the backdrop of current cultural and scientific methods. We aim to explore the numerous hermeneutical approaches that emerged from their goal to unveil social biases in canonical authors and works, and to redefine how we teach these authors in a socially responsible manner.

(i) Our first objective is to scrutinize the hermeneutical methods that acknowledge social biases in canonical authors and to question how these approaches alter our view of the conceptualization of canonical relevance.

Second, we are interested in new approaches to the history of philosophy that include philosophers from less privileged backgrounds, such as female authors, philosophers of color, authors from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, and non-Western or non-Christian philosophers. Recent years have seen historians of philosophy working to expand and change the philosophical canon. This has shifted the view on the history of philosophy in two respects: moving away from a highly individualistic approach to viewing it as a collective endeavor and including perspectives from other disciplines where marginalized authors had better access. In both cases, we observe a shift away from assessing philosophy based on logical rigor, moving towards an approach that values the novelty and influence of philosophical ideas.

(ii) Our second objective is to reflect on the philosophical presuppositions that underlie interdisciplinary and inclusive approaches to the history of philosophy. Our aim is to utilize their insights to redefine what is considered canonically relevant.

Third, we are interested in decolonial and non-Western approaches to the canon that call for a fundamental rethinking of the perspective from which we make canonical judgments. Post-colonial and critical race theorists have emphasized the importance of shifting the philosophy curriculum and canon from a hegemonic to a pluralist perspective. These movements critically point out that the concepts and notions we deal with are inherently part of a tradition that can only be combatted with a decentralized perspective.

(iii) Our third objective is to explore the insights gained from decolonial perspectives that perceive the canon as an ongoing negotiation process. We aim to understand the lessons that can be drawn when canonical relevance is defined in an inherently open manner.

1.    Workshop: Invitation of Potential Contributors

We invite abstracts for a pre-read workshop, scheduled for the 7th and 8th of February at the University of Salzburg, funded by the FWF Cluster of Excellence. Depending on funding and the selected contributors’ ability to travel, the event will be either online, in-person, or hybrid. Conference languages are German and English.

2.    Special Issue Educational Philosophy and Theory

Eight papers that collectively embody a pluralistic approach to canonical standards will be selected for the special issue “Canonical Pluralism” of the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory. These papers should introduce new approaches to teaching the history of philosophy in three areas: (i) hermeneutical methods, focusing on non-biased ways to study canonical authors; (ii) interdisciplinary and inclusive methods, focusing on non-canonical authors from disadvantaged groups; (iii) decolonial methods, integrating decentralized perspectives on canonical standards. All contributions must be submitted in English.

3.    Deadlines

·      November 20, 2024: Submission of abstracts (500 words)

·      February 17, 2025: Submission of revised abstracts for the special issue

·      April 30, 2025: Submission of full final papers

4.    Submission Guidelines

Workshop submission

Please submit an abstract of 500 words prepared for blind review, and an additional sheet with information including your full name, short biography, affiliation, and an indication of your ability to participate in person (which will not influence the decision). Send these to both Elisabeth Widmer, [email protected], and Bettina Bussmann, [email protected]. If your paper is selected for the special issue, you will be able to revise the abstract before the paper submission.

Paper submission

·      Word limit: 6000 words

·      APA referencing

·      We will try to cover open access costs if contributors lack funding

If you have any queries regarding this special issue, please contact the special issue editors.

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