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Canadian Philosophy from a Cosmopolitan Point of View

  • J. T. Stevenson (a1)


The title of my paper may lead the reader to expect an account of the content of Canadian philosophy, as seen from outside Canada. This is not my intention. In fact, I shall say very little indeed about the content of Canadian philosophy. What I shall offer, rather, is an apology for Canadian philosophy. The apology, needless to say, will not be apologetic; it will be an apologia, a clearing of the ground for a position. And the apology itself will be cosmopolitan, having a world-wide perspective.



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1 Delbos, Victor, La Philosophie Française (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1919), 2.

2 Robinet, André, La Philosophic Française (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969), 126.

3 Dasgupta, Surendranath, A History of Indian Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922).

4 Reulet, Anibal Sanchez, Contemporary Latin American Philosophy (New York: Criterion Books, 1956), xix.

5 Olson, Raymond E. and Paul, Anthony M., eds., Contemporary Philosophy in Scandinavia (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972).

6 Skolimowski, Henryk, Polish Analytical Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967), x.

7 Hook, Sydney, American Philosophers at Work (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1954), 10.

8 Collingwood, R. G., “History as Re-enactment of Past Experience”, in Gardiner, P., Theories of History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946), 253256.

9 Braun, Lucien, Histoire de l'histoire de la philosophie (Paris: Ophrys, 1973), 3.

10 Passmore, John, “Historiography of Philosophy”, The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. See also John Passmore et al., “Philosophy and the History of Philosophy”, Supplement no. 5 to History and Theory (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964).

11 Ibid.

12 Murphey, Murray G., “Toward an Historicist History of American Philosophy”, Transactions of the Charles Pierce Society 15/1 (Winter 1979), 4.1 am indebted to David Savan for this example.

13 Gueroult, Martial, “Philosophy of the History of Philosophy”, The Monist 53/4 (10 1969), 573574.

14 Goodman, Nelson, Fact, Fiction and Forecast (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), 64.

15 See Bodunrin, P. O., “The Question of African Philosophy”, in Richard, A. Wright, ed., African Philosophy: An Introduction (3d ed.; Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984). See also Hountondji, Paulin J., African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1983).

16 See, for example: Moniére, Denis, Le développement des idéologies an Québec: des origines à nos jours (Ottawa: Editions Québec/Amerique, 1977); English translation, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981); Yvan Lamonde, comp., Historiographie de la philosophic an Québec (Montréal: Hurtubise HMH, 1973) and La philosophic et son enseignement au Québec (1665-1920) (Ville La Salle: Hurtubise, 1980); Panaccio, C. and Quintin, P. A., eds., Philosophic an Québec (Montréal: Bellarmin, 1976); and Houde, Roland, Histoire et philosophic au Québec (Trois-Rivières: Les Editions de Bien Publique, 1979).

17 A pioneer chronicler was Irving, John. See “The Development of Philosophy in Central Canada from 1850-1900”, Canadian Historical Review 31/3 (1950), 252287, and Philosophy in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952). See also Goudge, Thomas A., “Philosophical Literature: 1910-1960” and “Philosophic Literature: 1960-1973”, in Klinck, Carl, ed., Literary History of Canada, vols. 2 and 3 (rev. ed.; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976).

There has been recent and growing interest in Canadian intellectual history and historiographical theory. A pioneer has been Berger, C.. See Approaches to Canadian History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974) and The Writing of Canadian History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976). A leaderin Canadian intellectual history with a special interest in philosophy has been McKillop, A. Brian. See A Critical Spirit: The Thought of William Dawson LeSueur (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977) and A Disciplined Intelligence: Critical Inquiry and Canadian Thought in the Victorian Era (Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979). Special mention should be made of Armour, L. and Trott, E., The Faces of Reason: An Essay on Philosophy and Culture in English Canada, 1850-1950 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1981). It might be characterized as a thematic and doxographic history of English-Canadian philosophy before 1950, emphasizing the themes of Reason and Compromise, written from an idealist perspective, and claiming a special value forindigenous philosophic thought. See also the article “Philosophy” in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1985) for summary accounts of philosophy in Canada, by historical periods, by linguistic community, and by philosophical subdisciplines. The conclusion of the article summarizes some of the main positions regarding the question of national philosophy addressed here.

18 Toynbee, Arnold, from a debate with Pieter Geyl on the Third Programme of the BBC on 01 4, 1948, reprinted in Gardiner, Theories of History.

Canadian Philosophy from a Cosmopolitan Point of View

  • J. T. Stevenson (a1)


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