Most entry level philosophy courses tend to focus almost exclusively on Western Philosophy. They also tend to follow a historical narrative that follows the evolution of western thinking, as opposed to studying ideas in themselves as they relate to each other, regardless of who/when they were discovered. For example empiricism is mentioned mainly within the context of British Empiricism, ignoring Indian and Arabic schools which embraced empiricism centuries before Locke or Hume. Similarly, ethics and values courses mention Kant, Mill and then Rawls, and relegate Confucius to Asian Studies and Chinese philosophy courses, when many would argue that his contribution to ethics are just as important.

In an era when the vast majority of the earth's population is not of Western decent, this attitude seems dangerously anachronistic, in a way justifying the accusations of cultural imperialism that various contemporary non-Western thinkers make when defending their own ideologies, values, and worldviews.

Have there been any anthologies and textbooks or university departments and courses that have tried to overcome this by addressing philosophy as a unified whole? Courses that approached philosophy in an ahistorical topic based way and then brought up the relevant ideas from different geographical and historical contexts? Can we move from a specifically Western Philosophical canon to a more comprehensive and cosmopolitan canon?

3 Answers 3


There are schools of comparative literature/philosophy that take this as their starting point; people like Gayatri Spivak, Pankaj Mishra who also have written under the term post-colonialism, though Spivak explicitly identifies herself as European philosopher - her philosophical orientation being French post-structuralism, mainly and mostly Derrida; also Mark Siderits, and Jay Garfield, who study Buddhist Philosophy, through a Western formation; also too, David Loy on Vedantic non-dualism.

The canonical great philosophers such as Hegel, or Kant were surely able to intuit the universal - for Kant, his Perpetual Peace, for Hegel, the Absolute; or poet-philosophers such as Tagore, Lorca, Neruda and Darwish.

For example, Tagore, writing in British administered Bengal in India, explicitly insists on being the heir to three great traditions: the Persian-Islamic through the Mughals, the European through the British presence, and Indian - indigenously.

If Capital is the material become universal, ie global; then one might posit, as a countervailing force, the Ideal, become universal; i.e. comprehensive, ecumenical and whole.


There is a school of philosophy called perennialism that holds all religious and philosophical traditions as approaching a single unified truth.

If you don't hold that point of view, the task of unifying disparate philosophical traditions becomes more difficult. Even within the Western tradition, there is a wide amount of dispute as to the relative importance and validity of different figures. Any anthology or anthological course inevitably involves disputable choices around what is included and excluded, and how the material should be presented and contextualized.

One attempt in this direction that I personally admire is Gloria Fiero's Humanistic Tradition anthology series, which compares and contrasts culture and philosophy from all around the world, throughout a range of historical eras.


It is not going to be possible. The church will never allow any thing that threatens its monopoly. It had demolished many things in past and still trying to destroy other sects.

  • As this stands, this simply appears to be your own opinion; can you provide a citation from a recognised philosopher that backs up this/your view? ie a reference. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:39
  • @Mozibur Ullah Please read Rajiv Malhotra books. He is our Indian Scholor
    – syamal
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 5:47
  • 2
    @syamal you seriously overestimate the power that the Church (which Church are you talking about anyway?) has in the West. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 17:37
  • @syamal: in the contemporary world the church has rarely has that kind of influence; even in the past, for example in the 15th C, when the Catholic Church refused to anull King Henry's marriage, he simply sacked the monasteries and set up his own church - the Anglican communion. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 20:55
  • For reference "the Church" presumably the Roman Catholic church (at least in its official doctrine) is opposed to abortion and gay marriage -- gay marriage and abortion are legal in very many Western countries. Where/how do they have such massive power as you suggest?
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 10:50

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