The History of Philosophy and the History of Philosophy: A Plea for Textual History in Context

Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (4):529-533 (2002)
There are at least three ways to write the history of philosophy. Some historians of philosophy emphasize the context and development of ideas, concentrating on the intellectual, social, and personal factors that affect the way philosophers have thought about their subject. Some contextualists limit their accounts to intellectual factors. Others take account of broad social and cultural factors as well. Analytic philosophers take a critical approach, considering the logic and merit of the arguments of past philosophers almost as though they are engaging in contemporary debates. Others use the ideas of historical figures to support their own philosophical agendas. I examine the merits and difficulties of developing a truly contextualized approach to the history of philosophy by using the writings of the French philosopher, Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), as an example
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