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Why history of Philosophy?

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Despite my advanced years, I am very new to (formal) philosophy. In the bit of recent 'dabbling' which I have done, I have come across statements like -

Nowadays, of course, the ideas of xxxxxxx are considered erroneous ...

OR

The theories of xxxxxxx on mind/thought/belief/knowledge are no longer acceptable ...

OR

xxxxxxx's ideas are no longer considered to be valid

What I am wondering is, in the light of these types of statements, is there a point in going into the History of Philosophy?




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Posted

Some people want to encourage the notion of progress in the history of philosophy, and such motivations spur them to determine which ideas have been rejected by the court of history and move on. Why re-invent the wheel, say? Why reintroduce the mind-body dualism, when it has had its day in the sun and has been replaced by more sophisticated models?Perhaps to save time better spent on more productive work - such as speculating new ideas or refining current ones.

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Posted

I think a good motive for studying the history of philosophy is that ideas don't always make sense when shorn of their context. Moreover, it's not at all obvious that a rejected idea should be dismissed forever; it may turn out to be useful later on when examined again or developed further, which is only possible if the history of philosophy continues to be actively investigated.

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Posted

madcelt, when I hear statements like what you refer to I always want to ask, "Okay, where's the argument?" Typically, and maybe stereotypically, all it means is that our prejudices have changed. Sure, we consider those ideas erroneous, and there's a sad gasp of honesty when the criticism is expressed this way, but certainly that must be different than actually being erroneous.Again, it should be asked, where's the argument? but that might be difficult to those who are self-indulgent, for to assess an argument adequately requires that you are able to get into the head of the arguer, know why the arguer feels compelled by reason the way he has.Sometimes I'm prejudiced and I know this, and typically I will tell you. And, typically, changing your own mind about something takes longer than people readily admit. I think many are under the delusion that all they need is a good argument to instantly change their mind about something about their worldview, but it is quicker to turn the wheel than to turn the ship. Give me a good argument, and I will turn the wheel; give me time, and I may turn the ship. Change is hard, everything resists change, we are such conservative animals.Wait...did I stray off-topic? :-)

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Posted

Parody, sometimes, the argument isn't enough. It could contain premises that has specific terminology, which assumes a body of knowledge the reader must be familiar with, in order to fully understand it. Sometimes it's not just an argument, but a full blown essay, a doctrine. The argument is just a snapshot of the entire system, and a sound-bite for people who don't have the time to comb through the volume of philosophy. For example, a recent thread on Berkeley went into a specific argument. However, there was no excerpt of berkeley, no real analysis of the terms offered. For all we know, we ended up discussing the poster's quick-n-easy interpretation of a passage, rather than Berkeley's philosophy. An argument isn't enough when we're doing philosophical analysis. We need to understand it first - be familiar with the context, what system of philosophy was this philosopher arguing against, what loaded concept was he using, or distorting, and so forth.

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Posted

Hello madcelt. Welcome to TGL. I don't know how "advanced" your years are, but I think I am also of above average age here. I am also a dabbler in philosophy, having never studied formally.You gave examples of some statements that purport to tell us about prevailing contemporary opinions on the doctrines of a past philosopher and then ask a question whose validity really depends on us taking those statements seriously.Of course, we can't really believe or disbelieve the statements as given by you because they're all about "xxxxxxx" and we don't know who that is. Even if we did know, why would we take your word for it that these are the prevailing or consensus views? And even if we accepted that, why would we take mere consensus as a reliable measure of "xxxxxxx's" doctrines?

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Posted

I am afraid I was being just a little lazy referring to quotations about xxxxxx.I have now done a little research and give for your consideration the following quotations:-For most contemporary philosophers Montaigne’s scepticism would be far too crude to accept.In its original form Descartes’ philosophy is now largely discredited.In its intended form Locke’s philosophy would not be accepted by contemporary philosophers.… there are problems with Berkeley’s philosophy. If we can only perceive ideas then how do we perceive the mind which must be accurately perceived in order to understand the status of ideas as described by Berkeley?Kant’s transcendental philosophy has now become eminently questionable, especially after recent philosophical speculation.Critics have been keen to point out the dangers of Rousseau’s philosophy.Existentialism is now a widely recognised movement. But according to the man who is mostly responsible for its promotion, Jean-Paul Sartre, it became too suceesful: ‘the word [Existentialism] is now so loosely applied to so many things that it no longer means anything at all’.

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