Philosophy 55 - 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • List and briefly describe three different approaches to the history of philosophy.
  • Identify the strengths of each of the three different approaches to the history of philosophy.
  • Identify the weaknesses of each of the three different approaches to the history of philosophy.

We will begin our discussion of the history of philosophy and the historiography of philosophy, or the study of how to conduct history pertaining to philosophy, with two fundamental questions: Why should one study the history of philosophy? And how should one study the history of philosophy? In response to the first question, the history of philosophy has both intrinsic and instrumental value. It can give us a more accurate understanding of our philosophical past while also informing contemporary approaches to philosophy. Historical authors provide a source of arguments, ideas, and theories that inform contemporary debates. Historical writings may inspire us. Finally, understanding the process by which philosophical ideas have developed can help contemporary philosophers better understand the debates and ideas that are important to them. In response to the second question: How should one study the history of philosophy? We may distinguish, broadly, between three main approaches to the history of philosophy—the presentist approach, the contextualist approach, and the hermeneutic approach.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax