In A. J. Holland (ed.), Philosophy, Its History and Historiography. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Reidel. pp. 27-40 (1985)

Michael Richard Ayers
Cambridge University (PhD)
No doubt most philosophers who spend time on the history of philosophy are familiar with that question asked to embarrass (and liable to be asked by scientists in particular) why the history of the subject should be thought a significant part of the subject itself. Either there is progress in philosophy, it is said, or there is not. If there is progress, why the laborious backward glances? How can the past be so important? Why aren’t philosophers like psychologists, given perhaps a short historical orientation before being brought up to the nitty-gritty of the present? If, on the other hand, there is no progress, if we might as well be discussing Locke as Quine, doesn’t that imply that philosophy consists in a set of questions for which there is no way of establishing even that some answers are better than others? Wouldn’t it be more profitable to pursue questions to which at least provisional answers can be established, approximating to the truth? Wouldn’t it be better to be a scientist?
Keywords Historiography  Progress in philosophy  Relevance of history of philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,107
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Cognitive Faculties.Gary Hatfield - 1998 - In Daniel Garber & Michael Ayers (eds.), The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 953–1002.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Towards a Critical Historiography of Philosophy.Absalom Madhala Adam - 1993 - Dissertation, York University (Canada)
Introduction: Historiography and the Philosophy of the Sciences.Robin Findlay Hendry & Ian James Kidd - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:1-2.
Confusing History.Robert C. Williams - 2010 - History and Theory 49 (2):304-309.
Historiography of Philosophy: Subject Matter and Aims.A. I. Novikov - 1964 - Russian Studies in Philosophy 3 (2):24-34.
The Future of the Philosophy of Historiography.Aviezer Tucker - 2001 - History and Theory 40 (1):37-56.
Theory-Assessment in the Historiography of Science.James W. McAllister - 1986 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 37 (3):315-333.
Historiographic Counterfactuals and the Philosophy of Historiography.Aviezer Tucker - 2016 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 10 (3):333-348.
The Benefit to Philosophy of the Study of its History.Maria Rosa Antognazza - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (1):161-184.
History and Historiography in Process.Anders Schinkel - 2004 - History and Theory 43 (1):39–56.


Added to PP index

Total views
12 ( #788,533 of 2,454,678 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #449,768 of 2,454,678 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes