What Is the History of Philosophy?

Just as poetry in English is a conversation between Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Yeats, and the rest, so philosophy in the West is a conversation between Parmenides, Plato, Augustine, Hume, Hegel, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the rest. To be a philosopher in our part of the world is to get in on that conversation.

- Richard Rorty

Podcast of the Day

Anthony Kenny's four-volume history of philosophy, just published by OUP looks set to replace Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. In this interview for Philosophy Bites he explains his approach and gives some interesting insights into the figures that have shaped the subject ranging from Plato to Derrida.

Listen to Anthony Kenny on his New History of Philosophy

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Short Article of the Day

If you go into a mathematics class of any university, it’s unlikely that you will find students reading Euclid. If you go into any physics class, it’s unlikely you’ll find students reading Newton. If you go into any economics class, you probably won’t find students reading Keynes. But if you go a philosophy class, it is not unusual to find students reading Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein. Why? Cynics might say that all this shows is that there is no progress in philosophy. We are still thrashing around in the same morass that we have been thrashing around in for over 2,000 years. No one who understands the situation would be of this view, however.

So why are we still reading the great dead philosophers? Part of the answer is that the history of philosophy is interesting in its own right. It is fascinating, for example, to see how the early Christian philosophers molded the ideas of Plato and Aristotle to the service of their new religion. But that is equally true of the history of mathematics, physics, and economics. There has to be more to it than that—and of course there is...

Continue reading Graham Priest's article: Philosophy and its History

Further Reading

Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?

Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Philosophy

Related Topics

If you’re interested in the history of philosophy, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

Aesthetics | EthicsKnowledgeHistory | Indian PhilosophyIslamic Philosophy | LogicMedieval Philosophy | Metaphysics | Philosophy | Political Philosophy

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