CFA: Questioning ‘Western Philosophy’: Philosophical, Historical, and Historiographical Challenges

Questioning ‘Western Philosophy’: Philosophical, Historical, and Historiographical Challenges

Conference, 28-30 April 2023, University of Oxford

Call for Abstracts. Deadline: 30 October 2022

Confirmed invited speakers:

  • Peter Adamson (LMU, Munich/King’s College London)
  • Lucy Allais (Johns Hopkins/Witwatersrand) 
  • Yoko Arisaka (Hildesheim)
  • Robert Bernasconi (Penn State)
  • Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia)
  • Lin MA (Renmin, Beijing)
  • Lewis Gordon (Connecticut)
  • Linda Martín Alcoff (Hunter College/Graduate Centre, CUNY)
  • Kimberly Ann Harris (Virginia)
  • Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
  • Catherine König-Pralong (EHESS Paris)
  • Christoph Schuringa (New College of the Humanities, London)

We are excited to invite proposals for papers to be given at an international conference, organized in collaboration with Philiminality Oxford, entitled ‘Questioning ‘Western Philosophy’: Philosophical, Historical, and Historiographical Challenges’. The idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ has become pervasive in academia and beyond, and yet what the term refers to is often left vague. Moreover, few scholars have directly explored the idea’s conceptual and historical underpinnings. Questioning ‘Western Philosophy’ will be the first international conference that subjects this idea to critical interrogation, asking whether it is legitimate, where it originates, when and how it becomes widespread, and how it impacts our understanding of philosophy and its history. 

The conference will explore the ‘legitimacy debates’ which have thus far been reserved for so-called ‘non-Western’ philosophical traditions, to ask whether the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ is a legitimate one, rather than simply assuming that it is – and is tantamount to philosophy as such. This might involve interrogating the linear narrative that presents the history of philosophy as a continuous, progressive, self-standing development from the ancient Greeks to contemporary Euro-America. We thus welcome discussion about how entanglements between philosophy in Europe and the rest of the world have a bearing on the notion of ‘Western Philosophy’. Recent scholarship has highlighted the erasure of African and Asian philosophical sources, starting in 18th century European historiography, and its repainting of philosophy as purely European and White, while others have highlighted the erasure of women from the history of philosophy across Europe over the same period. Through the conference presentations, we hope to develop a clearer picture of how these dynamics shaped or even grounded the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ which emerged over the 19th and 20th centuries. The conference also seeks to explore the impact of colonialism and how its legacies have contributed to the construction of ‘Western Philosophy’. We anticipate critical debates about the origins and rapid ascendancy of the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’, opening new directions in scholarship that pinpoints key moments in the genealogy and dissemination of the idea itself.  


Lea Cantor (Oxford) –

Josh Platzky Miller (KwaZulu-Natal) –

Conference venue & Accessibility: Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, University of Oxford, UK. Fully wheelchair accessible. PA system with handheld and lapel microphone units, infrared hearing system.

We welcome abstracts that address topics related to the issues outlined above, including:

  • Conceptual engagement with the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’, including
    • Intersectional analyses of the construction of ‘Western Philosophy’, especially regarding nationalism, racism, and sexism
    • Engagements with (assumed) characteristics and presuppositions of ‘Western Philosophy’
    • Epistemologies of Ignorance and ‘Western Philosophy’
    • Decolonial and anti-colonial approaches to the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’
    • Comparative and Intercultural approaches to the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’
    • Genealogical approaches to the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’
  • Historical and Historiographical analyses of ‘Western Philosophy’, including
    • The origin of the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’
    • How the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ was popularized
    • Intellectual influences and entanglements between ‘canonical’ European thinkers and contexts/ideas/thinkers outside of Europe, and their implications for the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ 
    • Historical critiques and defences of the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ (especially its earliest promoters and critics from around the world)
  • The impact of the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ on, inter alia,
    • The history and historiography of philosophy
    • Teaching philosophy
    • Philosophical research
    • Public and popular understanding of philosophy and its history

Eligibility & submission guidelines: 

We invite abstracts of maximum 500 words from graduate students and Early Career Scholars (within 5 years of PhD completion), suitable for 20-minute presentations in English. We especially encourage submissions from members of underrepresented groups in philosophy, particularly scholars from/in the Global South. Please submit abstracts as a .PDF file in an email attachment to questionwesternphilosophy[at] by 30 October 2022. Please write ‘Conference Abstract Submission’ in the subject line of your email and include your name, departmental affiliation (if relevant), email address, and the title of your paper (Early Career Researchers: please include the year in which your PhD was awarded) in your email. Abstracts should be prepared for blind review, so please ensure that your abstract is free from any identifying personal details (i.e. including title and abstract, but no information about author or institutional affiliation). Decisions will be communicated by 30 November 2022.


For more information and updates, please visit our conference website

For any inquiries, please contact one of the organizers directly. If you wish to be kept informed about the conference (and how to attend), please register your interest here

This conference is generously supported by the Mind Association, the British Society for the History of Philosophy, and the Aristotelian Society. 

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