Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Historians of Philosophy

I was wondering today whether it tends to be the case that historians of philosophy hold the view (or a similar position) of the figure(s) they focus on. So, do Kant scholars generally subscribe to some form of Kantianism, Mill scholars to some form of Millianism, etc?

My next question is about the direction of causation. Do scholars usually choose to study to a figure because they agree with their philosophical commitments generally or do they find themselves agreeing as a result of (or maybe just after) having looked closely at the figure's work and found it plausible?

I'm not sure whether anyone will be able to answer this question beyond their own experience, but even that would be interesting to me. This is part of a more general empirical question I have about how strongly people's non-philosophical commitments determine/guide/influence/play no part in the philosophical positions they hold.

1 comment:

Matt Brown said...

My utterly anecdotal experience suggests that when a philosopher focuses on a single particular figure, they tend to adopt something like their view. When they tend to write at a larger period or tradition, they seem less likely to be committed to a particular view of one or more of those figures.

Speaking for myself, as both a Dewey scholar and someone who holds several Deweyan positions, I think the arrow goes both ways. My early pseudo-philosophical readings had pragmatist leanings; there I think a combination of compelling arguments and excitement at philosophy itself captured me. Thus, early on, I was attracted to (classical, neo, and quasi) pragmatism, and after closer study I came to find certain authors more and less compelling in their positions and arguments. Finally, having embarked upon a careful study of one of Dewey's works, I found it extremely compelling and it influenced my thinking significantly.

Further, pure hearsay suggests that Paul Guyer, while a renowned Kant scholar, actually doesn't think much of what Kant says is plausible.