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Author: James Alexander

Abstract

We still ask the question ‘What is Enlightenment?’ Every generation seems to offer new and contradictory answers to the question. In the last thirty or so years, the most interesting characterisations of Enlightenment have been by historians. They have told us that there is one Enlightenment, that there are two Enlightenments, that there are many Enlightenments. This has thrown up a second question, ‘How Many Enlightenments?’ In the spirit of collaboration and criticism, I answer both questions by arguing in this article that there are in fact three Enlightenments: Radical, Sceptical and Liberal. These are abstracted from the rival theories of Enlightenment found in the writings of the historians Jonathan Israel, John Robertson and J.G.A. Pocock. Each form of Enlightenment is political; each involves an attitude to history; each takes a view of religion. They are arranged in a sequence of increasing sensitivity to history, as it is this which makes it possible to relate them to each other and indeed propose a composite definition of Enlightenment. The argument should be of interest to anyone concerned with ‘the Enlightenment’ as a historical phenomenon or with ‘Enlightenment’ as a philosophical abstraction.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

Abstract

In this paper I am concerned with the relation between the history of science and the philosophy of science from the perspective of philosophy. In particular, I examine two philosophical objections against the idea that the history of science can provide evidences to the philosophy of science. The first objection is metaphysical and suggests that given Hume’s law, i.e. that norms cannot be derived from facts and given that the history of science is a descriptive enterprise while the philosophy of science is a normative endeavor, the former cannot be informative for the latter. The second is epistemological and is often called the ‘case studies dilemma’. According to this dilemma, we can neither deduce general philosophical theories from particular historical cases nor test the former through the latter. I argue that although those objections fail to be fatal for the idea that the historical data can provide evidence for the philosophical theories of science, they can help us draw a proper image of the relation between the history and the philosophy of science. I conclude that this picture presupposes the constant epistemic iteration between the two disciplines.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Author: Dr Adrian Blau

Abstract

This paper presents a framework of four types of meaning and understanding in the history of political thought and intellectual history. Previous frameworks have overlooked a whole type of meaning – the type often prioritised by political theorists and philosophers. I call this “extended meaning.” Correcting a wrong turn in philosophy of language in the 1950s, I show how extended meaning has robust intellectual foundations, and I illustrate its value for textual interpreters. Even historians often need extended meaning, for example to help resolve ambiguous passages. So, the main types of meaning are not alternatives: scholars interested in one kind of meaning still need others. This paper thus celebrates both diversity and unity.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Author: Juhan Hellerma

Abstract

In his meticulously researched and conceptually innovative book, Zoltán Boldizsár Simon aims to capture the historical sensibility emergent during the postwar period broadly conceived, spanning from the 1940s to our present moment. Attending particularly to the debates concerning ecological and technological outlooks, Simon theorizes that our historical horizon is increasingly shaped by the expectations of an unprecedented event that challenges the sustainability of the human subject as known today. Arguing that the concept of unprecedented change can best be explained against the backdrop of a modern processual temporal configuration originating in the eighteenth century, Simon likewise probes the same concept to illuminate a distinct relationship with the past. Elaborating on the main ideas of the book, the paper will interrogate critically Simon’s assertion whereby the novel postwar temporality is inherently dystopian, and will negotiate Simon’s engagement with presentism, which he questions as an inaccurate representation of our current regime of historicity.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

Abstract

Alex Rosenberg’s latest book purports to establish that narrative history cannot have any epistemic value. Rosenberg argues not for the replacement of narrative history by something more science-like, but rather the end of histories understood as an account of human doings under a certain description. This review critiques three of his main arguments: 1) narrative history must root its explanations in folk psychology, 2) there are no beliefs nor desires guiding human action, and 3) historical narratives are morally and ethically pernicious. Rosenberg’s book reprises themes about action explanation he first rehearsed 40 years ago, albeit with neuroscience rather than sociobiology now “preempting” explanations that trade on folk psychological notions. Although Rosenberg’s argument strategy has not altered, the review develops a number of reasons as to why his approach now lacks any plausibility as a strategy for explaining histories, much less a successful one.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

Abstract

This paper examines the interplay between conceptual structure and the evolution of scientific concepts, arguing that concepts are fundamentally ‘forward-looking’ constructs. Drawing on empirical studies of similarity and categorization, I explicate the way in which the conceptual taxonomy highlights the ‘relevant respects’ for similarity judgments involved in categorization. I then propose that this taxonomy provides some of the cognitive underpinnings of the ongoing development of scientific concepts. I use the concept synapse to illustrate my proposal, showing how conceptual taxonomy both facilitates and constrains the accommodation of newly discovered phenomena. I end by briefly considering the implications of the proposed approach for a normative evaluation of scientific concepts.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

Abstract

Does R. G. Collingwood’s theory that concepts in philosophy are organized as “scales of forms” apply to his own work on the nature of history? Or is there some inconsistency between Collingwood’s work as a philosopher of history and as a theorist of philosophical method? This article surveys existing views among Collingwood specialists concerning the applicability of Collingwood’s “scale of forms” thesis to his own philosophy of history – especially the accounts of Leon Goldstein and Lionel Rubinoff – and outlines the obvious objections to such an application. These objections however are found to be answerable. It is shown that Collingwood did indeed think that the scale of forms thesis should apply to the philosophy of history, and even that he identified the “highest” form in history as a kind of scientific research or inquiry. But it is not claimed that Collingwood identified the “lower” forms explicitly. An account is provided of the three distinct forms that can be identified in Collingwood’s philosophy of history, and of the “critical points” by which (according to Collingwood’s meta-philosophy) lower forms are negated and incorporated by higher forms. But it is also explained that these forms are not neatly coterminous with the stages in Western philosophical thinking about history as Collingwood narrates them in The Idea of History.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Author: Yael Gazit

Abstract

This article suggests a change of perspective on philosophy’s engagement with its past. It argues that rather than the putative purport of giving life to the past philosopher’s work, philosophical engagement with the past gives life to one’s own. Drawing on the neo-pragmatist thesis of Robert Brandom, it suggests looking to what philosophers do when they attribute meaning to concepts and considering their engagement with the past as appropriation in consequence. By scrutinizing Robert Pippin’s opposing thesis of philosophical engagement with the past as dialogue, and carefully examining Brandom’s, the article suggests an account for appropriation that shows it to be non-dialogical, and hence unable to yield the fruits associated with this conception, but also insightful and rich with other philosophical values. Brandom and John McDowell’s dispute over the interpretation of Wilfrid Sellars provides an illustration of the proposed perspective and of those values.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History