Timothy Williamson's the philosophy of philosophy

Analysis 69 (1):109-116 (2009)
Hilary Kornblith
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Timothy Williamson's new book, The Philosophy of Philosophy, has a number of central themes. The very idea that philosophy has a method which is different in kind from the sciences is one Williamson rejects. “… the common assumption of philosophical exceptionalism is false. Even the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori turns out to obscure underlying similarities”. Although Williamson sees the book as “a defense of armchair philosophy”, he also argues that “the differences in subject matter between philosophy and the other sciences are also less deep than is often supposed. In particular, few philosophical questions are conceptual questions in any distinctive sense. …”. In addition, Williamson argues that “the current philosophical mainstream has failed to articulate an adequate philosophical methodology, in part because it has fallen into the classic epistemological error of psychologizing the data. … The picture is wrong; we frequently have better epistemic access to our immediate physical environment than to our own psychology. … Our understanding of philosophical methodology must be rid of internalist preconceptions”. I am tremendously sympathetic with all of these views.In this review, I want to raise a number of questions about philosophical methodology which Williamson does not address. While Williamson is wonderfully forthright on many important issues about philosophical methodology, the view he presents is compatible with a surprisingly wide range of approaches to philosophical questions. This may be precisely what Williamson wants. At this stage in our understanding of the philosophical enterprise, it may be premature to narrow the range of methodological options more than Williamson does. There are some hints, however, that Williamson may favor some of these options more than others, and, if that is so, it would be useful to make that clear and ….
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DOI 10.1093/analys/ann039
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