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Philosophy and the Historical Perspective$
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Marcel van Ackeren

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266298

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266298.001.0001

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What Have the Historians Ever Done for Us?

What Have the Historians Ever Done for Us?

(p.18) 2 What Have the Historians Ever Done for Us?
Philosophy and the Historical Perspective

Hans-Johann Glock

, Marcel van Ackeren, Lee Klein
British Academy

This chapter discusses the relationship between substantive philosophy and the history of philosophy, using the debate about analytic philosophy’s attitude towards the history of the subject as a guide to a more general assessment of historicism. While studying the past is not essential to substantive philosophy, it is useful. But it also harbours risks, as pointed out by thinkers as diverse as Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. These risks are discussed by looking at four recent historicist trends within analytic philosophy: precursorism, the general ‘reflective turn’ towards the history of philosophy, the more specific ‘historical turn’ towards the history of analytic philosophy, and the self-reflective concern with the historiography of analytic philosophy. The chatper conclude that the benefits of doing philosophy historically outweigh the drawbacks; in any event, even if the history of philosophy were irrelevant to substantive philosophy it would still be a respectable discipline.

Keywords:   history of philosophy, analytic philosophy, precursorism, reflective turn, historical turn, historiography, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein

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