In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy

By Molinaro, Ines | British Journal of Canadian Studies, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy


Molinaro, Ines, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Andrew D. Irvine and John S. Russell (eds), In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 352pp. Cased. £42. ISBN 978- 0-8020-3895-1. Paper. £20. ISBN 978-0-8020-3817-4.

The editors of this weighty anthology evoke the great western philosophical tradition of engaging with public life through reasoned dialogue and deliberation, a tradition quintessentially embodied in Plato's Socrates. In the Agora aspires to illustrate the 'breadth of writing done by Canadian philosophers' (p. xvii), 'whose work is widely read by Canada's leading opinion makers and editorial page writers' (p. 5). With very few exceptions, the 37 contributors are academic philosophers with appointments in Canadian philosophy departments, and not public philosophers or intellectuals, broadly understood. Irvine and Russell reference some of the signature moments in the history of philosophy to highlight the power of ideas to remake the world. However, they do not discuss the tensions or forms of engagement scholars/academics must negotiate in communicating their ideas to a wide audience in contemporary western societies. Nor do they consider what it means to be a philosopher in Canada or if the public face of philosophy in Canada is distinctive in any way.

Nevertheless, they have assembled a collection of cleverly crafted articles, accessible to a non-specialist audience, addressing a broad assortment of topical, contentious issues. The anthology includes over ten essays each from the two editors and Thomas Hurka, as well as contributions from Charles Taylor, John Ralston Saul, Ian Hacking, Mark Kingwell, Will Kymlicka, Stan Persky and Michel Seymour, among others. The greater part of the one hundred and forty articles were previously published in Canadian or international newspapers, magazines or journals. …

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