Peer reviewed writing
The double bind of the philosophical canon (abstract)
In 2003 professor Walter D. Mignolo developed a critique on the philosophical canon as being problematically exclusionary towards philosophers of colour and non-Western philosophies. For this critique Mignolo used the concept of the ‘double bind’, developed originally in the field of psychology, to illustrate and explain how the philosophical canon has been problematically excluding philosophers of colour and non-Western philosophies.
This paper applies Mignolo’s concept of the double bind to analyse how the philosophical canon has been problematically exclusive towards women* philosophers and feminist philosophies, which is unfortunately still a problem the field grapples with (Kings, 2019). By drawing similarities between racial, ethnic and gender motivated exclusion, this essay lays the foundation for an intersectional critique of the philosophical canon, particularly analysing the discrimination of those who experience multiple marginalised identities.
As such, I will start this paper by explaining the concept of the double bind as it is
mentioned in Mignolo’s work — as excessive similarity and an excessive difference — as well as its origin in Gregory Bateson’s work, which defines it as a contradictory message containing a threat. After this I will use the concept of the double bind to show that the philosophical canon is also exclusionary towards women philosophers and feminist philosophies. I will show that the philosophical canon is male-coded and that it sends out a similar message to women* as it does to non-Western philosophers, with the same threat of excluding them from the canon. However, where non-Western philosophers are judged on the Westernness in their work, women philosophers are judged on the degree of maleness in their work.
After that I will bring in the concern that the exclusion of women from the philosophical
canon through the double bind might not actually be problematic. Namely because, from this unique outside position, women* are able to critique the canon in a way that is not possible to do from within. Lastly, I will reply to this concern by arguing that the exclusion of women philosophers through the double bind from the canon is a problem, because it leads to a vicious cycle of marginalisation.
Presented at the Conference by Women* in Philosophy at Antwerp University, June 2022.
If you're interested in reading the full article, feel free to contact me