Any philosophical canon is practically self-undermining


Abstract There has recently been much-needed critical discussion of the current Anglo-American philosophical canons, but not as much consideration of their nature and purposes. I discuss what philosophical canons are and argue that they are social practices, and in particular, social practices of enforcing rules. I then consider what purposes a philosophical canon can have for various stakeholders. Building on Luca Castagnoli’s work on self-refutation in ancient philosophy, I clarify various notions of being practically self-undermining. I then argue that even on an inclusive view of what the purposes of a philosophical canon are, any philosophical canon is self-undermining. There is no plausible account of the purposes of a philosophical canon that is not undermined by having one, whatever its makeup.