Meeting 25

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DATE: Tuesday, February 16

TIME: 1 PM Princeton time (EST) / 8 PM Bucharest time (GMT+2)

PANEL: Exclusion and Inclusion in the History of Philosophy

SPEAKERS: Karen Detlefsen (University of Pennsylvania), Daria Drozdova (HSE University, Moscow), Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University)

CHAIR: Lisa Shapiro (Simon Fraser University)


Early Modern canon in Russian/Soviet textbooks on history of philosophy

Daria Drozdova, HSE University, Moscow

In the talk I’m going to address the question of the relationship between the historical narratives and canons in history of philosophy. I will examine approaches to teaching the history of early modern philosophy in Russian and Soviet universities in the 19th and 20th centuries, using several textbooks and lecture courses as examples. In the 19th century, the teaching of the history of Early Modern philosophy in Russia was deeply influenced by the German-speaking tradition. At the same time there were numerous approaches to how the history of philosophy and its internal logic should be interpreted. After 1917, a single dogmatic tradition of interpreting and teaching Western philosophy in a Marxist vein gradually crystallized in the Soviet Union. The resulting modification of the understanding of philosophy and its history had hardly affected the list of those who were considered to be the greatest minds of the Early Modern philosophy (Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume), although it has changed their evaluation according to their contribution to the development of dialectical materialism. More significant changes can be found in the interpretation of prior or subsequent philosophy. Taking Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno as examples, I will examine how changes in the dominant narrative alter their significance in the scholar representation.

Cugoano and Early Modern Philosophy

Chike Jeffers, Dalhousie University

This paper will explore the question of how to situate Africana figures in the story of early modern philosophy by focusing on the example of Quobna Ottobah Cugoano. I will discuss the usefulness of comparing Cugoano with other early modern thinkers like John Locke and Jonathan Edwards. I will also discuss how Cugoano situates his work within a nascent tradition of black writing in English that is equally relevant to understanding his philosophical contribution.

Method, Genre and the Scope of Philosophy in Early Modern European Women Philosophers 

Karen Detlefsen, University of Pennsylvania 

Philosophy today recognizes specific genres and methods as distinctively philosophical. These are relatively recent constructions. Philosophy, as practiced in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe did not always conform to these contemporary disciplinary norms. By reading these norms—for example, those that characterize analytic philosophy—back onto the philosophical past, the fullness of that past is occluded. Anchoring our understanding of philosophy in the early modern period not in genres (e.g. treatises) or in methods (e.g. rational argumentation toward a conclusion), but rather in content (i.e. questions or concerns that are distinctively philosophical), allows us to better recover the philosophical contributions of erstwhile neglected figures. Further, understanding an author’s audience and purposes can help inform why the author might have used the genres and methods that she used in order to produce her philosophy. 

In this paper, I examine a few especially telling examples of the variety of ways in which women in early modern Europe produced their philosophy. In the process, I argue that philosophical writing in this period appears in a wide range of genres, utilizing a wide range of methods, and that a full history of our discipline must acknowledge these contributions to the history of our discipline. 

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