I was thinking this morning about a phrase in James Ward’s Naturalism and Agnositicism. Ward describes himself at one point as preaching to Kant from Kant. I find the phrase worth thinking about because it concisely captures a way of relating to philosophy’s history I care deeply about. That way is–put in a very general slogan–the way of understanding a philosopher better than the philosopher understands himself. As I mentioned in a post some time ago, Otto Bollnow has an interesting essay on this way of relating to philosophy’s history, and I want to comment on that essay. Part of the reason I want to do so is that I take it that this way of relating to philosophy’s history typifies the self-understanding of continental philosophers more than that of analytic philosophers; so commenting on the essay is a way of measuring something of the difference between the two traditions.
‘Typifies’–of course there are exceptions. And ‘self-understanding’–because of course not everyone who understands his relation to the philosophy’s history this way realizes that self-understanding. Nor of course does everyone who in fact relates to philosophy’s history in this way understand himself as so doing.
I had intended to get back to this topic for a while, but it took a visit from Jean-Philippe Narboux (and a little conversation with him) to get me back to it. (My thanks to him.) –I plan to work at it slowly during the holidays.