Active Mimesis and the Art of History of Philosophy

It is often argued that a study of the history of philosophy is not itself philosophical. Philosophy, it is claimed, is an active, productive enterprise, whereas history is taken to be imitative and therefore passive. My aim in this paper is to argue against this view of the history of philosophy. First, I describe a famous criticism of historians of philosophy—Kant’s critique of the “spirit of imitation.” I claim that the source of this criticism is the received view of mimesis. Since the received view has been widely discredited, I propose a different one—one that sees imitation not as passive but as active. Finally, I suggest that adopting this new view of mimesis demands that we rethink what it means for a history of philosophy to be true. And I propose that the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer might help us to do so
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0019-0365
DOI 10.5840/ipq200343155
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