Prof. Ian Angus, Simon Fraser University, Humanities
The Thankful Critic: Philosophy and the Law
Socrates’ refusal to disobey the laws of Athens that condemned him shows the solidarity of philosophy with a place whose tradition allows, and even encourages, philosophy. The encouragement of philosophy is an encouragement of critique of one’s own law. Thereby, an intimate relationship between thankfulness for a tradition and critique is established. This connection between philosophy and the “law” (custom, institutions) will be explored through an analysis of three reflections on the idea of the nation: Louis Riel and the Métis nation, Winthrop P. Bell, and George Grant. The leading idea in this analysis will be whether the “law” in Canada encourages philosophy. The conclusion sketches the connection between thankfulness and critique in a contemporary context.
Prof. Steven Burns, Dalhousie University, Philosophy
Philosophy in Literature as a Canadian Philosophical Kind
This presentation will trace the history and current influence of philosophy in literature as a unique strength of Canadian philosophy, tracing this movement from its origins in the work of Jacob Gould Schurman, and continuing through the work of Stewart, Martin, Burns, and Scotch, and recently in manifestations in artistic and academic work across Canada, as by Jan Zwicky, Jason Holt, Mark Glouberman, Leonard Cohen, Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Yann Martel, Alistair MacLeod, and others.
Prof. Roland Chrisjohn and Shaunessy McKay, St. Thomas University, Native Studies
Canadian Philosophy and the Canadian Philosophy Form of Racism: 150 Years into the Morass
With respect to indigenous peoples, in 150 years Canadian philosophy (however that phrase is understood) has acquitted itself as being neither better nor worse than any other formal or informal aspect of non-Native Canada. We find this troubling because (1) as Canadians, Canadian philosophers have of course shared in the economic bounty that has accrued to non-Native Canadians from the marginalization and vilifying of Native peoples and our concerns; and (2) as philosophers, Canadian philosophers have done little to nothing to intervene in the systemic program that has been deployed to “justify” this theft: Canadian racism.
Since (for better or worse) western civilization has itself designated philosophy as the forum within which to consider sense and nonsense, rationality and irrationality, truth and untruth, certainty versus belief, rational argumentation versus rhetorical argumentation, and other such enigmas, we had hoped that, by now (150 years into it all), philosophy/philosophers would have provided some direction, if not assistance, in confronting the racism which pollutes all aspects of Canadian society (including academe). Instead, Canadian philosophy has legitimated with its silence the oppression of Native peoples and the trivialization of our issues; or, worse, reflected and participated in the mishmash of falsehoods and misrepresentations which comprise the mainstream view of us; or, worse still, deigned to comment on our issues when arrogantly and imperiously ignorant of them.
For people like ourselves — who consider philosophy, not just as important, but as the single most important formal discipline in the fight to free us all, Native and non-Native alike, from the intellectual chains which limit our thinking — the failure of Canadian philosophy to assert a leading role in “draining Canada’s swamp” is, in 2017, beyond merely disappointing: it is a dereliction of its enduring academic duties and a denial of its own better self. In this, it is once again neither better nor worse than any other formal or informal aspect of non-Native Canada
Lorraine Mayer, Brandon University, Native Studies
Aboriginal Philosophy: a Cree Perspective
Little is known of Indigenous philosophy and what is known is often relegated to the religious sphere. I intend to challenge such limiting views. This paper will address Canadian philosophy from an Indigenous perspective. Before Canadians there were indigenous peoples, and before European philosophers arrived on the shores of Canada there were philosophical methods employed by the Indigenous peoples. These methods have been ignored or misunderstood for far too long. I will address epistemology and metaphysics from within Cree stories thus demonstrating a shared methodology, and particularly a uniquely Cree Canadian philosophy.
Robbie Moser, Mount Allison University, Philosophy*
French-Canadian Thomism was never a single unified school. But a distinctive version of Thomism can trace its genealogy back to mid-twentieth century Québec. Laval Thomism is characterized by an inner dynamism of the conservative and progressive, a dialogue of seemingly contrary demands before and after the Quiet Revolution. The pivotal figure is Charles de Koninck (1906-65), whose work and influence embodies this dynamism: an anti-modernism which emphasises the priority of common objective nature over individual subjective experience, and, an insistence on the priority of the ever-developing physical sciences over metaphysical speculation in securing our understanding of nature. This paper introduces and situates de Koninck’s position on the relation of science and metaphysics. Its primary aim is to display de Koninck’s thought, but it will also suggest that his position needn’t aggravate and indeed should gently temper some filial and fraternal Thomistic quarreling.
John Russon, University of Guelph, Philosophy*
The Distinctive Canadian Philosophy of Northrop Frye and Jeff Wall
Philosophy is both a tradition of scholarly thinkers and it is wisdom—the digesting and interpreting of the world in an insightful and transformative way. Based on this second criterion, it is Northrop Frye and Jeff Wall, whom I consider to be among the very best Canadian philosophers, though neither is “officially” a philosopher. Frye, more than any other thinker of whom I am aware, studied and identified the distinctive character of Canadian culture, and Wall, both in his artworks and especially in his writings, similarly both interpreted and, indeed, (re-)defined the nature of Canadian art. My study will use these figures to focus on the distinctive cultural multiplicity of Canada, and on the unique political and cultural opportunities that that reality has to offer.
William Sweet, St. Francis Xavier University, Philosophy
Some Models of Canadian Philosophy
I begin with some brief comments on the role of culture in philosophy, and how this helps us to understand the notion of ‘national’ philosophies, such as French, Scottish, German, and Chinese philosophy. I then argue that distinctly (even if not uniquely) Canadian concerns have influenced philosophers in Canada in writing on specific topics, especially in social and political philosophy, (the philosophy of) religion, and the philosophy of culture, and that Canadians are recognized among the leading philosophers on such topics. (I also briefly refer to my own experience as a Canadian studying in France doing research on a ‘Canadian’ topic.) My claim is that these concerns focus on efforts to support unity while acknowledging an appropriate pluralities or distinct identities. Here, I will give some examples from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, ranging from former UNB philosopher Samuel Dyde to James Tully. Finally, I argue that there are other ways in which we can see the utility in speaking of Canadian philosophy.
Elizabeth Trott, Ryerson University, Philosophy
Philosophy in Canada and Canadian philosophy: a Dialectical Debate
This paper will seek to establish the meaningfulness of the proposition, that there is Canadian philosophy. It will include an inquiry into the difference between philosophy as a universal practice, and philosophy as a cultural product. Philosophy, as a universal practice, and that includes philosophy written in Canada, may be committed to the pursuit of universal truths, or if not truths, universal propositions and statements. Philosophy can also be both an expression of, and a critical reflection on, culture. I shall maintain that philosophy in Canada, is both the practice, in pursuit of universal truths, and a cultural product. I shall give several examples of early Canadian philosophers, documented in the book by Leslie Armour and Elizabeth Trott “The Faces of Reason.” The conclusion will be that philosophy in Canada includes Canadian philosophy. Specific concepts that will identify Canadian philosophy are dialectic, change, place, community and uncertainty.
Jeff Hilderley, Independent Scholar
The Canadian Philosophy Library
This talk will describe what the ideal first library of Canadian philosophy will look like, based on Mr. Hilderley’s two-year work in designing one and establishing a classification system. A distinguishing feature of Canadian philosophy, across the board, regionally and ethnically, is a heightened concern with histvory. Aboriginal-Canadian philosophy, for example, features a close intertwining of philosophy with history, specifically as it pertains to the preservation and retention of concepts which are native to this land, and the adoption or forced imposition of those which now widely prevail. Likewise in French: there is a rich, 370-year institutional history of philosophy to explore. As for English-Canadian philosophy, in works by authors as diverse as Innis, Grant, or Bourinot, to pick just three examples, there is a distinct tendency to interpret present-day Canadian reality in terms of historical development, be it political, economic, technological, or educational.
Jason Bell, University of New Brunswick, Philosophy
The Philosophy of Espionage: Winthrop Bell and World War I Era Military Intelligence
Winthrop Bell, a Canadian philosopher (professor at Harvard and Toronto) who was the first non-European philosopher to write a dissertation under the supervision of Edmund Husserl (the founder of the modern phenomenological movement), was commissioned by British military intelligence to write a series of reports on the political, economic, and social situation in Germany after the conclusion of hostilities in World War I. This talk will explore these reports, their relation to Bell’s 1939 warnings of Hitler’s plans for racial exterminations (which appear to be the only published warnings to have appeared so early), how philosophical considerations informed these accounts, and will suggest ways in which these reports can inform military intelligence in the present day, while reinforcing Canada’s role as a peacekeeping nation and as a defender of human rights.
Matthew Dinan, St. Thomas University, Catholic Studies
Grant Between Heidegger and Strauss; Canada between Europe and America?
This lecture explores George Parkin Grant’s engagement with two important 20th Century thinkers: Martin Heidegger and Leo Strauss. While Grant’s debts to Heidegger’s critique of technology are widely recognized, scholars have suggested that Strauss’ influence on Grant is much more ambiguous. This paper suggests that Grant’s book, Time as History is deeply indebted to Strauss’ critique of Heideggerian historicism, but also observes that such a critique is in conscious tension with Grant’s overarching techno-pessimism. Grant’s non-historicist engagement with the linked technology-history problematic in this way recalls Strauss’ own attempts at a non-historicist analysis of historicist thought. This paper thus argues that Grant’s substantive disagreements with Strauss conceal his ultimate methodological commitment to defending Canadian liberalism in the same eccentric mode in which Strauss sought to defend its American counterpart.
Donald Forbes, University of Toronto, Political Science*
George Grant and the Meaning of ‘Canada’
This talk explores George Grant’s provocative and often-misunderstood investigation of the philosophical meaning of ‘Canada,’ and the reception of this investigation among philosophers and political theorists in Canada.
Jackie Kegley, University of California Bakersfield, Philosophy
Josiah Royce’s Philosophy of Loyalty and Community: Building Genuine Communities and Genuine Individuals, Positive Liberty and Common Objectives, Tolerance and Interpretation
This paper connects themes of Royce’s philosophy with themes in Canadian philosophy focusing on recognizing collective identities while also preserving individual human rights and growth; building a better world and a sense of provincial, national, and world community. Royce’s philosophy of loyalty emphasizes personal self-fulfillment; one’s cause answers the question “For what do I Live?’ It gives a community common goals. His enlightened provincialism emphasizes communal pride while his notion of loyalty to loyalty advocates promoting broader loyalties in the world, moving outside one’s own point of view to understanding other points of view. Other loyalties are critically respected; if they are destructive of community and loyalty, one seeks to change them. Royce’s doctrine of interpretation promotes tolerance and understanding; open, genuine communication between individuals and groups. An interpreter can mediate between dangerous pairs or conflicting loyalties. His global community promotes enlightened nationalism with advancing international loyalty and common goals.
Will Kymlicka, Queen’s University, Philosophy*
The Canadian School of American Political Philosophy
By the 1980s, political philosophy within English-Canadian philosophy departments had largely been Americanized, dominated by the sort of rights-based liberalism developed by American philosophers. This Americanization of Canadian political philosophy has been bemoaned by critics, but I will argue it has actually made possible a uniquely Canadian contribution. In the process of adapting American liberalism to the Canadian context, a number of innovations were needed in liberal theory, and these innovations have proven to have global resonance. Indeed, while the Americanization of political philosophy is now a global phenomenon, the sort of American rights-based liberalism that has diffused around the world often has a distinctly Canadian flavour. This paper will attempt to identify some of the strengths of this Canadian school of American political philosophy, but also its potential limits in dealing with current (ecological, post-colonial) challenges.
Cheryl Misak, University of Toronto, Philosophy*
A History of Pragmatism in Canada
Walter Schultz, Dominican University, Philosophy
Multitude Rising: Jacques Maritain’s Contribution to Awareness and Resistance in the Twenty-First Century
From his rebellious youth through his yearning for sainthood as one of the twentieth century’s leading Christian philosophers in the Thomist tradition, the quest for liberation defines Jacques Maritain. Progressive awareness of the human person in community and resistance to historical forces eclipsing such awareness became his credo as a Christian activist. Here it will be argued that Maritain’s personalism contributes to our understanding in the twenty-first century of the myriad yet coalescing movements seeking to address global economic sustainability, environmental harmony, the fostering of human rights and authentic democracy. Maritain’s personalism, developed in significant measure in Canada, and paralleling insights from Charles Taylor and others, offers a corrective to the current postmodern appreciation of singularities and difference within the multitude rising against oppression.
Sue Sinclair, University of New Brunswick, English
Jan Zwicky: The Vulnerable Philosopher
Jan Zwicky’s account of what she calls “lyric philosophy” has had considerable influence on Canadian poets and poet-philosophers, of whom I am one. She has described and defended a way of understanding that we seem to have been aching to have witnessed, affirmed. Lyric philosophy is a philosophically unorthodox structure in which thinking is a matter of tuning into tense, resonant connections among diverse elements that form an integrated whole. Because its structure is polydimensional, lyric thought asks you to be ready to tune in through your body and emotions as well as your mind—otherwise you may be deaf to some of the resonances and lose out on meaning. Lyric philosophy thus asks us to be particularly vulnerable in our thinking, for although any worthwhile philosophical pursuit requires vulnerability, lyric philosophy requires us to be vulnerable, permeable, available on several fronts.
Ronald Weed, University of New Brunswick, Philosophy*
Liberalism, Technology and Inequality: Revisiting George Grant’s Critique of Rawlsian Justice
One distinctive voice in Canadian political thought is George P. Grant. An interesting point of contact between Grant’s work and 20th century American political thought is his reﬂection on the work of John Rawls in English Speaking Justice (1974) where he gives special attention to the question of whether political liberalism and technology are mutually sustaining. While his critique of Rawls’s Theory of Justice was an early and tentative critique of an early phase of Rawlsian justice, there is an important thread of the critique that—more than ﬁfty years laterpresents an even more timely objection.
The kinds of inequality generated in a burgeoning technological economy present a systemic tension between freedom and equality that represents a formidable problem for the acceptability of Rawls’s account ‘Justice as Fairness’. The representative deliberators behind the veil of ignorance might not reasonably expect that the scale of inequalities in a high tech economy would beneﬁt those worst off in society, whoever they might be.
Grant’s subsequent work on technology, together with his ongoing reﬂections on the moral foundations of liberalism, provides an important resource within the Canadian context for a timely reconsideration his early critique of Rawlsian liberalism in light of the opportunities and hazards of the emerging high tech economy and its implications for political community.
Sheldon Wein, Saint Mary’s University, Philosophy
Canadian Contractarianism: Seeking an Explanation for (an Apparent) Disconnect
During the last half century contractarian theories of justice have dominated thinking about justice in the English speaking philosophical world. This was due originally and primarily to the contributions of John Rawls whose A Theory of Justice was largely responsible for re-igniting an interest in grandiose theories of justice and social contractarian theories in particular. Theories of the sort Rawls advanced have their roots in works by Jean Jacque Rousseau and Immanuel Kant and it has been widely thought that the political arrangements recommended by such theories are much like those arrangements Canada strives to implement. Yet oddly enough Canadian political philosophers, insofar as they have worked on contractarian theories of justice have primarily been concerned with what has come to be called rational choice contractarianism, a theory which finds it roots in the works of Hobbes (and perhaps Hume) and found its most sophisticated statement in David Gauthier’s Morals by Agreement. But rational choice contractarianism is widely thought to favor political arrangement which the United States of America seems to be moving towards. This paper attempts to explain why so many Canadian philosophers have been interested in what seems like a theory suited to American aspirations while American (and other) political theorists have been so interested in a theory apparently so applicable to Canada’s political arrangements. This paper offers an explanation for this apparent disconnect. Hint: The explanation is not because Rawls was an American and Gauthier a Canadian—the reasons are somewhat more complex.
Janet Wesselius, University of Alberta
Thought in a Cold Climate: The Environmental Philosophies of Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Arne Naess
Geography is often overlooked when we consider significant influences on the development of philosophy. In this paper, I compare the thought of Inuit environmentalist Sheila Watt-Cloutier with the work of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. This exploration reveals some distinctive epistemic patterns of nordicity. The thought of both thinkers are steeped in their northern locations and hence characterized by a focus on environmental issues; as well, they both write out of and employ the imagery of their specific geography and climate. I shall then consider whether such an exploration can tell us anything about the possibility of specifically Canadian philosophy.
Sébastien Lacroix, Université Laval and University of Amsterdam (joint program)
Québec’s Contribution to Canadian Political Philosophy
The concept of identity is central in understanding Canadian political philosophy. Supplanting the concept of tolerance, identity has determined much of Canada’s international relationships and integration policies. It is a driving force in our philosophical debates and a key concept in the politics of recognition. In this paper, I suggest that Québec’s internal identity debates over the last 100 years have influenced Canadian political philosophy. I do so by reconstructing the debate between two national nexus, one liberal-pluralist and the other republican-conservative, as well as by demonstrating this debate’s relevancy to understanding political philosophy in Canada as a whole.
Pablo Munoz Iturrieta, Dominican University College, Ottawa
Charles Taylor and Lawrence Dewan on the Secular, Religion, and the Public Square
Religion touches on people’s deepest convictions, the structure of modern secular society, and the possibility of peaceful coexistence of nations and communities. However, it is also important to clarify the terms of the debate. This paper will offer a challenging invitation to deepen our understanding of the fundamental meaning of secularism and religion, for this will contribute to the definition, or redefinition, of laws that establish a balance between religious freedom and the demands of a public order.
Andrew J Cutler, Yorkville University, General Studies
Leslie Armour and the Canadian Philosophical Tradition
This paper will examine the thought of Canadian philosopher Leslie Armour and specifically his ideas on the history of Canadian Philosophy. In the early 1980’s he produced a number of articles on this topic which will be examined alongside his work with fellow Canadian philosopher Elizabeth Trott. With a heavy focus in Canadian Idealism, both Armour and Trott developed ideas unique to Canada and multiculturalism and in 2016 Trott published a paper “Idealism and Ethics: GWF Hegel and Leslie Armour,” Philosophy, Culture and Tradition, which will be focussed on in order to situation Armour within the Hegelian legacy of philosophy.
Jesse Smith, St. Paul University, Theology
Emergent Appeals: Philosophical Method and Canadian Identity
In this paper, I will suggest that several of Canada’s most celebrated intellects have all shared a common style of argumentation which I will name Emergent Appeal. Furthermore, this philosophical approach has more than a correlative relationship to Canada – it in fact mirrors what John Ralston Saul calls alternatively a “Fragile Triangle” or a Métis Nation when speaking of Canadian identity. In contrast to analytic, genealogic, or comparative modes of philosophy, EA is characterized by its non-exhaustive examinations of ideas as well as use of an eclectic variety of media and by a grounding in the logic of the personal subject without explicitly denying objective standards. The ultimate goal of an author is calculated to emerge from this series of incomplete moves. To wit, I contend his mode of thinking can be identified in the work of Marshall McLuhan, George Grant, Bernard Lonergan, John Ralston Saul, and Charles Taylor.
Vanessa Arviset, University of Montreal
La mémoire québécoise : analyse d’une tension philosophique et d’une solution politique
L’hypothèse soumise dans cette étude est celle d’une tension philosophique entre deux manifestations de la mémoire politique : l’une inspiratrice et créatrice, l’autre rappelant des crimes ou souffrances vécues et pouvant servir de catalyseur à une irruption de la violence. Nous examinerons ces différents types de mémoires dans une analyse d’extraits du Phèdre de Platon et d’un texte du corpus aristotélicien, la Constitution d’Athènes, nous référant aux commentaires d’Agamben et de Ricœur pour ce dernier. Nous appliquerons ces analyses philosophiques à la devise québécoise « Je me souviens » et à la crise d’octobre de 1970, afin d’en retirer une interrogation sur la mémoire canadienne. De multiples mémoires coexistent au Québec, soulevant la question de la gestion des mémoires du passé et de leur impact sur le présent dans une société multiculturelle et démocratique. Pour des raisons de temps, nous nous limiterons à la question de la relation entre la mémoire francophone et anglophone. Nous examinerons, d’une part, les liens entre la violence et la mémoire, et d’autre part, nous nous demanderons si une mémoire des origines pourrait être envisagée comme inspiration pour la création d’une nouvelle identité, contrastant cette solution à celle offerte par l’amnistie collective qui cherche à enrayer la violence, mais suscite des problèmes éthiques, comme l’a soulevé Ricœur. (Presentation in French, questions in English welcomed)
Valerie Bernard, University of Toronto, Philosophy
Qualitative Distinctions of Worth: Charles Taylor and Gary Watson on Human Agency
This essay compares and contrasts Charles Taylor’s approach to human agency with Gary Watson’s. I argue that, in rejecting the utilitarian bias towards quantitative calculation, Taylor offers a new and unique methodology that makes way for a deeper and more complex “real picture” of human agency in practice. Taylor’s “strong evaluation” considers qualitative as opposed to exclusively quantitative distinctions of worth. I argue that this allows him to more successfully discuss what it is that makes a person’s desires specifically his or her own. This is what Watson argues Harry Frankfurt’s second-order desires model of volition is unable to do. Watson himself, however, stops short of providing an alternative model that can connect personal desires to individual volition. I argue that, by rejecting utilitarian quantitative calculation, Taylor is able to do what Watson is not because Taylor’s model is able to access more vaguely defined qualities that explain the more complex ways in which individuals choose courses of action.
Robert Meynell, Independent Scholar
Lawren Harris and the Art of Canadian Idealism
Understanding Canada requires the study of, among other things, the cultural and intellectual traditions that are its warp and woof. In the pantheon of Canadian cultural figures, Lawren Harris (1885-1970) is among the most illustrious. Of the Group of Seven, he is the best known and his work now fetches the highest price of any Canadian painter at auction, most recently selling Mountain Forms for $11.21M.
As an emerging artist, Harris set out to establish a national art movement and, through his modern impressionist style and his majestic landscapes, and by organizing the launch of the Group of Seven, he succeeded. But what is the relationship between art and nationalism? What role do pictures play in the building of a country? What does a painting of a landscape tell us about Canada’s national identity? And does Harris’ vision of Canada still hold value in Canada today?
In this paper I explore Harris’ philosophical idealism and how his philosophy of art was buttressed by an idealist philosophy of history, nationhood, and individual freedom. I highlight the core tenets of Harris’s philosophy and show how they come through in his art.
* Scholar is planned to participate in volume, but not in the November 23-25 conference.