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May 21st, 2005

Unexpected First Lines

David Chalmers has persuaded Frank Jackson to post many papers to the Centre for Consciousness website. One of them is Frank’s review of James Franklin’s Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia. It starts with the following line.

Philosophers are reluctant to take time off to do history, even the history of their own subject.

Now I know history of philosophy is not a big part of the mission at the Research School, but I never knew it had completely dropped off the radar screens!

I remember when this came out in print someone (and I can’t remember who) suggested the best interpretation was that he meant contemporary history, which would be relevant, given Franklin’s book, and make the claim true. So that’s the natural charitable interpretation. But as novel and unexpected sentences go, this one was fairly novel and unexpected.

Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized

3 Comments »

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 21st, 2005 at 8:38 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Unexpected First Lines”

  1. Peter McB. says:

    As someone trained in pure mathematics, I have always been amazed at most mathematicians’ lack of interest in the history of their subject, too. Indeed, mathematicians who are interested in math history tend to be disparaged as being unable to do “real” math: history is seen as the first resort of the second-rate. I wonder if the same attitude prevails in philosophy.

    Even the expression “take time off to do history” is disparaging, as if one could have a proper appreciation of a discipline without knowing the path it took to reach its current state. My first course in logic was taught by the late Malcolm Rennie, who famously embarked on his research career (in the late 1960s) by reading every single article in every past issue of “Mind”, in chronological order. Would any philosopher do this now?

  2. Neil says:

    I think it was Jonathan Barnes who said that philosophers disparage the history of philosophy but are mainly engaged in precisely that: the very recent history, rather than the more distant. Maybe now that Lewis is gone, we’re beginning to see a clearer-eyed acknowledgement of this fact.

  3. Neil says:

    I think it was Jonathan Barnes who said that philosophers disparage the history of philosophy but are mainly engaged in precisely that: the very recent history, rather than the more distant. Maybe now that Lewis is gone, we’re beginning to see a clearer-eyed acknowledgement of this fact.