Does Philosophy Have a Vindicatory History? Bernard Williams on the History of Philosophy

Matthieu Queloz
Oxford University
This paper develops Bernard Williams’s suggestion that for philosophy to ignore its history is for it to assume that its history is vindicatory. The paper aims to offer a fruitful line of inquiry into the question whether philosophy has a vindicatory history by providing a map of possible answers to it. It first distinguishes three types of history: the history of discovery, the history of progress, and the history of change. It then suggests that much of philosophy lacks a vindicatory history, for reasons that reflect philosophy’s character as a humanistic discipline. On this basis, the paper reconstructs Williams’s conception of what it means for philosophy to engage with its own history. The paper concludes that it is a mistake to think that a vindicatory history is what we would really like to have, and that in fact, the resulting picture gives philosophy several reasons to engage with its own history.
Keywords Bernard Williams  History of Philosophy  Humanistic Discipline  Metaphilosophy  Contingency  Richard Rorty  Gilbert Harman
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Genealogy and Knowledge-First Epistemology: A Mismatch?Matthieu Queloz - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):100-120.

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