Does a WORLD canon make sense?

There are people who do not believe a canon "makes sense' at all. And there are people who does not believe a Western canon makes sense. Even more people believe a WORLD canon is non-sense. Why? Fundamentally because there has not been a world tradition, and thus a world canon is non-existent.


Granted, a world canon that has been popularly adopted has not existed - to the extent I have seen, even attempts at a truly representative world canon list (like the one on this site) have not been that common yet. But it does not mean that there SHOULDN'T be a world canon. In fact, as long as there is a Western Canon, there really SHOULD be a world canon, in my view.


To start with, a canon is a mental/intellectual construction - essentially just a list of books which already exist. The texts have always been there, what is new is the grouping together under the label of a "canon". At least in the sphere of education, selection of texts for didactic purpose is a regular activity; and as such, being more deliberate about the selection criteria, and choosing texts that are truly representative and/or "great' (however you conceive of this) cannot hurt.


How about for world canon? "World", just like "Western", and in fact, just like any other collective nouns, are also mental constructions - one can easily argue whether there has been in fact been something called the "West" or not. I believe it does - not as an objective reality, but as a historical fact that there have been (and still have many) people identified with it. Just like "being European" or "being British", or "being a Londoner", it is a label of personal identity.  And in this context, I think a "World" tradition SHOULD be created (if it is non existent now), not only from the abstract identification of "humanity" as a unity/community, but also (and more importantly so) from the concrete (yet emerging for sure) community of people (mostly "elites") in the world who can no longer easily claim to come from really one or two tradition(s). A "world' tradition, and a world canon, is needed for such a community, without a doubt.

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