Preaching to X from X: Relating to Philosophy’s History

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.

One response

  1. In the wake of yesterday’s lecture and talks we’ve had, I thought about something that came up while Bernie Rhie was here regarding the relationship between Heidegger and Husserl and subsequently Heidegger and Levinas. The project of the newer philosopher in each case looks like refinement or purification of the earlier philosopher’s work. (I took this to capture, among other things, the way Husserlian phenomenological study and existential subjectivity are fundamental principles in subsequent continental works, but are approached differently in each via clarificatory exercises.) The language there looks very much unlike what someone might say with regard to the analytic tradition. I’m unsure “refinement” of other views is a primary descriptive word when talking about the analytic.

    Just a thought.

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