Short Rant on History and Philosophy

I’ve been thinking a bit about history lately, so I thought I’d chime in here, since this blog is dedicated to history of asian philosophy. For years and years (and still today), history of philosophy is something one can learn in a philosophy department (For example, I’m a PhD student in a philosophy department, focusing on history of philosophy). However, as I’ve seen history of philosophy done at the various universities I’ve been involved with, the “history” part of history of philosophy often is neglected. Sure, we are concerned somewhat with the time in which a particular philosopher wrote, and the contemporaries with which that philosopher argued, but we are sadly not as concerned with this as we should be. A good historian-of-philosphy should ideally be a good philosopher and a good historian. A weakness on one side or the other will lead to odd interpretations. A philosopher with no head for history will end up reading interpretations into historical texts which make the philosopher sound like he or she is doing contemporary philosophy. A historian with no philosophy background will do a great job at seeing a philosopher as a result of their cultural and intellectual background, but will do little as far as reconstructing a coherent interpretation of the philosopher’s positions.

Maybe this means all of us who focus on history of philosophy should be forced to take degrees in philosophy and history together.

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