Sunday, 15 February 2015 19:00

4. Reading as antidote, counterpoint or enrichment

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As a philosophical counselor, I am only as good as my "canon." By this I mean the body of texts that I spontaneously summon, during philosophical counseling sessions, from my own working library to recommend to someone to read so she may consider alternative viewpoints.

My offering of philosophical as well as other literary or theoretical references is usually intended to function as an enrichment of, antidote or counterpoint to someone's perspective on her life situation. Some call this activity “bibliotherapy” but, if we semantically divest this activity of unwanted clinical connotations, we could simply call it reading edification.

The idea of a “canon” is an interesting problem from the standpoint of feminism, critical race theory, and other critical theories that examine the cultural dynamics of power and dominance. Authors, philosophical concepts, ideological systems and cultural values in general are preserved by social mechanisms of dominance that are authorized give the imprimatur of “canon” to some texts, excluding others. Philosophical practice is edifying if we practitioners remember that the critique of the philosophical canon is useful to individuals and groups who seek wisdom; such critique is an important part of most philosophical traditions.

I prefer to think of my canonical repertoire as a resource gained during my pursuit of philosophical knowledge and insight. I have accumulated other resources that align with this pursuit. I have seen readers devour a wide range of philosophical literature: from ancient, classical sources to contemporary feminist texts. Had I not been in dialogue with these readers to recommend the antidote, counterpoint, or edifying book, perhaps they might not have read those texts. Nor would these readers’ critical faculties have been electrified by the exchange. As it is, a new canon was born in dialogue with each person.

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Kate Mehuron

I received my Ph.D. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University in the United States, specializing in nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy and feminist theory. I am the author of numerous published articles in continental, feminist and social theory anthologies. I am a philosophical counselor certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. My current research focuses on philosophical practice and philosophical critiques of medical mental health paradigms. I am employed as the Associate Dean of Programs and Professor of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, Eastern Michigan University. 

Many of my writings can be found at