History and Philosophy: A Reflection
“The history of philosophy, like the history of any other part of mankind’s Intellectual achievements, needs to be written and rewritten by every generation In terms of what is of importance to present-day intellectuals. Philosophy itself develops in specific historical and cultural contexts. ” – Richard Pocking, The Columbia History of Western Philosophy Man’s progress, as a ‘rational animal’, is deemed to be exponential: our reasoning minds have the capacity to revolutionize the way we think, and possibly, contributes o the transformation of our view or understanding of the world.
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The time and cultural background, thus, has a significant Implication In an Individual’s Ideas and Its development as an ‘Idea’; It Influences the development of that particular Idea to some extent. A philosopher’s way of thinking, and the ‘products’ of that way of thinking-? the ideas themselves, are said to influenced by the historical context wherein It developed. But perhaps the assumption, that history Influences developments In philosophy, is not at all complete, in my opinion.
It is man’s degree of awareness, his achievements and discoveries-? rather, that is exponential; positively correlating man’s degree of reasoning with the sum of all existing knowledge that he acquired does not necessarily follow. In other words, It does not entail that even If we acquire a vast ‘library of knowledge, the way we acquired them-?or the way we have processed that enormous information in our thinking brain-? does not alter radically. Reasoning is a constant; thinking, a nearly immutable process.
The ideas brought bout by our reasoning are variables: we could produce much of It, as long as we think. We could reinvent Ideas, change our perspectives In seeing these Ideas, and most importantly, unveil more ideas in the preexisting sets of ideas; but our way of reasoning will not alter. The substance in our reasoning is the same; but the substances of our separate ideas, which are products of reason, are Individually different and thus account for the very meaning when we Imply ‘sum of all existing knowledge’ or ;vast library of knowledge’.
Many contemporary philosophers of today have thought that existing philosophies are the framework or breeding grounds of possible philosophical quests, as that Sextets Millrace’s philosophy Is revived by Hummed: that there are Neo-Relatedness following the footsteps of Aristotle; and so as Neo;Kantian following the metaphysical insights of Kant. Perhaps because of this, it has been widely and mistakenly presumed that philosophy has not developed at all for the nearly three thousand years of Its existence as a discipline.
If this Is truly the case then man’s basic notions of existence, reality and knowledge has not evolved significantly at all! This ‘disdain’ for philosophy, as I call it, is derisive. Philosophy is not chiefly concerned with discovering ideas. Its aim is to establish truth of existing ideas and its sources. The progress of philosophy as a discipline does not rest on the ‘mass’ of Ideas that It has acquired; rather, on the way these Ideas are concealed Even the question-? How are ideas conceived? Ђ? proves to be philosophical in Its 1 OFF horses that similarly points to our first assumption that ideas are influenced by the external factors such as its historical and cultural context, apart from the internal ‘dynamics’ of the individual, like intelligence, attitude, etc. I move on to assert that history imparts a significant bearing on the development of philosophy because development of ideas is influenced by historical and cultural contexts; and by preexisting sets of ideas, which are outlined in history itself. This compels us to study history in understanding philosophy.
Transition of periods and civilizations may denote a new wave of philosophical movements-? be it advancement, decline or rebirth of ideas. In fact, history of philosophy is a separate discipline-? a philosophy in itself! What does this imply? History of philosophy is constantly ‘being rewritten’-? as to how it might relate to the contemporary or modern-day problems still baffling our human existence. The puzzling questions of theistic have a separate history with that of the enigmas of understanding the nature of time, for example, and these questions are still begging us for concrete answers.
I once thought that the most primitive questions of man are the hardest to answer, and through science and philosophy, we are still in the process of answering them. Perhaps there is no absolute answer; certainty is a matter of debate as well. Most importantly, I think the very core of studying history in understanding philosophy is the simple assumption that by looking back in time, we may have a better perspective on discerning our present and the future. I L