Textual Deference

American Philosophical Quarterly 28 (1):1 - 12 (1991)
Abstract
It is a truism that the attitude of deference to the text plays a lesser role in Anglo-Saxon philosophy than in other philosophical traditions. Works of philosophy written in English have, it is true, spawned a massive secondary literature dealing with the ideas, problems or arguments they contain. But they have almost never given rise to works of commentary in the strict sense, a genre which is however a dominant literary form not only in the Confucian, Vedantic, Islamic, Jewish and Scholastic traditions of the past, but also in relation to more recent German-language philosophy (thus for example in work on Hegel, Heidegger or Wittgenstein). Moreover Anglo-Saxon philosophers have themselves embraced the commentary form when dealing with Greek or Latin philosophers outside their own tradition. The paper seeks to establish the reasons for this imbalance by examining those factors which might be conducive to the growth of a commentary literature in a given culture.
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