Authors
Eric Schliesser
University of Amsterdam
Abstract
The main task for philosophers is introducing, clarifying, articulating, or simply redirecting concepts as—to echo Quine’s poetic formulation— “devices for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.” I sometimes use “coining concepts” as shorthand for this task. When the concepts are quantitative they are part of a possible science ; when the concepts are qualitative they can be part of a possible philosophy. Of course, in practice, concepts are oft en stillborn, while others have multiple functions in fi elds of inquiry that may straddle philosophy and science. In this chapter I argue that historians of philosophy must, among other things, coin concepts that disclose the near or distant past and create a shared horizon for our philosophical future. In virtue of our expertise we can often do so by drawing on previously orphaned concepts. The more narrow aim of this paper is to introduce two concepts, “Newton’s challenge to philosophy” and, especially, “philosophic prophecy,” that are suitable to philosophers who engage with texts in a scholarly fashion. I do so by re-telling the story of early analytical philosophy and its connection to the reception of Spinoza. By “Newton’s challenge to philosophy,” I mean the following: from about 1700 onward, “natural science” is increasingly taken to be authoritative in settling debates within philosophy; it is a concept that focuses attention on the authority of science and its various manifestations within philosophy. By “philosophic prophecy,” I mean the structured ways in which concept formation by philosophers can shape possible futures, including that of philosophy. In what follows, I first develop and characterize philosophic prophecy more precisely. In order to illuminate the concept, I contrast it with several related, more familiar concepts. Second, I offer brief critical comments on two alternative approaches to the history of philosophy promoted by Quentin Skinner and Michael Kremer in order to make more precise the approach favored here. Third, I offer a fresh narrative about the prehistory and origin of analytical philosophy. My story focuses on Ernest Nagel, who, I claim, is the philosophic prophet of analytical philosophy. Along the way, I explore the shared origins of analytical philosophy and analytical history of philosophy in the anti-Spinozistic writings of George Boole and Bertrand Russell. I oppose Nagel’s and Russell’s narratives in light of Moritz Schlick, the founder of the Vienna Circle. I adopt Schlick’s bold and unappreciated vision of the task of philosophy in scientific age. I focus on his identification of philosophical legislation with qualitative concepts.
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Philosophy of History and History of Philosophy of Science.Thomas Uebel - 2017 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 7 (1):1-30.

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