Saturday, December 29, 2018

On the History of Philosophy

Etienne Gilson
Etienne Gilson begins the preface to his book The Unity of Philosophical Experience with an interesting thought on the importance of the history of philosophy. He notes that in order to make a good progress in the study of philosophy, you must first read history of philosophy. Here are the opening lines of the preface:
The history of philosophy is much more part of philosophy itself than the history of science is part of science, for it is not impossible to become a competent scientist without knowing much about the history of science, but no man can carry very far his own philosophical reflections unless he first studies the history of philosophy. In point of fact, the First Book of Aristotle's Metaphysics is also the first known History of Greek Philosophy, and it remains a perfect example of how such a history should be written. For indeed it is a philosophical history of philosophy, whereas too many modern histories of philosophy are written in an unphilosophical way. Unless it may be shown as exhibiting some intrinsic intelligibility the endless chain of mutually destructive systems that runs from Thales to Karl Marx is less suggestive of hope than of discouragement. 
Gilson’s aim in the book is to show that the history of philosophy makes philosophical sense, and is a part of the general philosophical knowledge.

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