What Can Canada Contribute To Philosophy?


What can Canadians contribute to the project of philosophy? (Or, I could add, theology.) One journal I became aware of in 2011 was Animus: The Canadian Journal of Philosophy and the Humanities, which is now linked permanently on the sidebar of City of God. One article from a previous issue attempted to discuss the thought of James Doull on the question of Canada’s philosophical significance.

From the article, “James Doull On What It Means To Be A Philosopher In Canada,” Animus 10 (2005), 67-68 (pdf):

That Canada is beyond being simply another version of the European nation-state is seen by the simple fact that the political union between French and English Canada after the Conquest would be unthinkable from a European perspective. Articulating a genuinely common political spirit between the French and English traditions in Canada would prevent a nation from falling back upon its merely natural characteristics as the primary foundation of the state and its citizenship, in isolation from the universal freedom of its rational institutional life. For this reason, Doull’s view of Canadian philosophy’s capacity for a more objective view of the intellectual tradition cannot be labeled nationalistic, because it is precisely in Canada’s capacity to transcend nationality that he sees this potential. Its access to historical truth does not lie, for example, in a traditionally romantic appeal to our languages as having a deeper access to truth, as with the Heideggerian privileging of German and Greek as philosophically richer than languages at the disposal of other nations. Doull is of course critical of the naturalistic and relativizing view of philosophical positions as being inextricably bound to a particular national culture, as if they could only have been discovered or even understood by members of that culture. National character does not limit what can be grasped by the universality of thought, but only disposes a thinker to apprehend a certain principle with clarity, though other principles or perspectives are far from inaccessible. The Canadian philosopher, not bound to one European national tradition, but without having radically broken off from European thought, should be disposed to consider more objectively the common European philosophical legacy.