However, as with other disciplines and, indeed, other facets of technological and social development, this movement across his- tory is not constant.
Sometimes it moves by leaps and bounds; sometimes it seems to stop almost completely. It fixes, as permanently and objectively as possible, a toolbox of philosophical concepts and vocabulary suitable for standardizing its dis- course its special isms and the research agenda of the community. The prob- lem of that day was to square philosophy with newly available scientific discov- eries unearthed by new methods without moving so quickly as to be condemned. In so doing, Descartes and his contemporaries broke free from philosophical deadlock in an age in which dissenters were dismissed as heretics to allow phi- losophy to flourish again in the climate of the Enlightenment, as indeed it did.
Fairly, one could say that for this 5 very reason philosophy departments cannot get by without a course on Early Modern Philosophy and yet feel quite comfortable leaving out Medieval.
Any stage in the semanticization of Being is destined to be initially innovative if not disruptive, to establish itself as a specific dominant paradigm, and hence to become fixed and increasingly rigid, further reinforcing itself, until it finally acquires an in- tolerant stance towards alternative conceptual innovations, and so becomes incapable of dealing with the ever-changing intellectual environment that it helped to create and mould.
In this sense, every intellectual movement generates the conditions of its own senescence and replacement. In their pure decontextualized and ahistorical form, they belong to the museum of antiquities, nonetheless important for the seeds that they have sown and the history of human thought that they record.
But is he right about philosophical revolution, and if so, what has changed that could precipitate a revolution at this time? I will address the second question first. Mathematical methods were making good progress at the time, thereby introduc- ing a new foundation for a philosophical method which he thought could be ap- plied to old questions to forge answers consonant with a new science.
In so doing, he inaugurated new paradigms in both metaphysics and epistemology. Spinoza and Leibniz both followed in the wake of this mathematization of philosophical method, which is still apparent in contemporary views on logic-based inference today. Theological reformation in the background, particularly regarding the pri- ority of reason over faith, a subtle inversion of the commitment of faith over rea- son that grounded Medieval theology in reason without losing its mystery, also played a role in opening the space of philosophical inquiry.
This is easily seen in the fact that Descartes was Catholic though the strength of his commitment is a matter of some debate , but not the Jewish Spinoza and Lutheran Leibniz, who nonetheless could be mainstream players in the context of minor Catholic background players whose names we know but speak of only rarely, e. Both analytic and continental philosophy stem from the same sources, the methods, metaphysics and epistemology of Descartes, as two children from one parent.
In the case of continental philosophy, the notion that philosophy could start with introspection and use reason to reverse engineer its way back to some external world that was hiding fictively, for Hume behind our perceptions inau- gurated a new set of questions. But why now? New positive forces are, according to Floridi, present on the scene inviting a re-appropriation of the philosophical enterprise.
These external forces cannot be ignored, due to their magni- tude and their sudden acceleration. As Floridi notes elsewhere: To have some simple, quantitative measure of the transformations experienced by our generation, consider the following findings. Ninety-two percent of the new infor- mation was stored on magnetic media, mostly in hard disks.
In , this was almost MB of recorded data produced per person. It is like saying that every newborn baby came into the world with a burden of 30 feet of books, the equivalent of MB of data on paper. We need only look around at the ubiquity of information and communica- tions technologies and the sheer size of a world-wide web that has yet to enter its third decade.
Indeed, in my childhood the cell phone was a distant technology for the 23rd-century world of Star Trek. In addition, it is worth pointing out changes in the socio-political landscape as well: Facebook, for instance, created only seven years ago in , is nearing million members, making it the third largest civic organization on the planet after India and China and the largest social science database ever compiled in the history of the world!
There can be no doubt that we are in a period of geometrically-accelerating change creating new problems for philosophy—some pressing to the point of concerning the via- 8 bility, meaning and identity of our species—and new methods for addressing them.
One would have to be an ostrich with his head in the sand not to see this fact. So, on this point, Floridi seems to be correct. Furthermore, the situation is desperate for the discipline of philosophy, but much more so for the preservation of a world ecosphere and infosphere that needs philosophers not reactionaries now more than ever. In light of the above, Floridi suggests that the time is right to learn from new paradigms and see where they may take us when addressing philosophical prob- lems.
Just as Descartes adopted mathematics as a model of inquiry, Floridi adopts the notion of Levels of Abstraction LoAs from object-oriented programming in computer science and transforms it into the foundations of an information-based philosophical method. It is not my purpose here to comment on the book as a whole or assess whether the initiative is successful; that work will be left to other venues Beavers a, b.
Such a move is justified for several reasons. Though, according to contemporary usage, it may sound strange to say that the information revolution is around 5, years old, in geological or even evolu- tionary terms, this would still make it quite new.
Second, there is precedent for looking at the role of developing technologies in scientific revolutions Kuhn , and since we are considering a discipline that trades in informational phe- nomena i. In this paper, I divide the history of information flow into four epochs: the 1 epigraphic, 2 printing, 3 multimedia, and 4 digital, noting that as revolu- tions they always preserve something of the past and might better be thought of as waves that follow in the wake of previous technological development.
The epigraphic revolution is characterized by the invention of writing, an era in which temporal speech could be coded in the spatial medium of writing, there- by allowing information to cross both temporal i.
The printing revolution, starting around , is characterized by the mass production of writing, an era in which writing acquired the ability to propa- gate quickly along different routes. The multimedia revolution, beginning in the s, is characterized by the industrialization of information flow and the intro- duction of audio and visual technologies that decoupled the dissemination of in- formation from the transportation industry. While there are smaller, micro-movements that can be plotted on the above trajectory as well, the enumerated revolutions are unified by a common theme, namely one of introducing new devices that allowed the flow of information to leap forward with sudden and dramatic force.
Though it might be mere metaphor to say that information was destined from the start to find a way to travel as fast and far as possible, in short, to network as many minds to as many others as quickly and efficiently as possible, this has, nonetheless, been its collective effect. The history of information flow can thus be told from a networks perspective in which each era significantly rearranged the informational networks that connect people to people and then also to machines.
At first travelling by sound created by modulating wave forms with the human voice to be decoded in the mecha- nisms of the human ear, thereby traveling only as far as allowed by sound waves amplified by repetition and rumor mills, massive amounts of information can now jump continents and oceans in parts of a second.
While it might be too hard and fast to say that these revolutions directly caused transformations in the philosophical scene, they nonetheless coincided with important transitions in the discipline. In this regard, they are co-incidental 10 hyphen intended , but not in the usual arbitrary sense of the term. There is a de- pendence relation between them that is perhaps best articulated by noting that philosophical changes in the discipline could not have happened without techno- logical change.
Minimally, then, the latter is a necessary condition for the former. More so, however, insofar as information technological change raises new issues, produces ancillary effects in the socio-political, economic, educational, etc.
Indeed, Cohen notes that blood feud was transposed into the Athenian court system, where battles could be fought out in argument, thereby creating a culture centered around rhetoric both for the sake of vengeance and social control. Schools of oratory grew up to teach the art of speech making real- ly, speech writing , the most famous of which was perhaps that of Isocrates.
The sheer presence of the amount of Greek legal oratory we still possess in writing testifies to this fact.
For the purposes of this commentary, the salient feature of this analysis is that Greek philosophy emerges in a social and political climate that has problematized the relationship between speech and writing. While not all philosophy that follows from this inception can be connected directly to this ini- tial conflict, concerns over rhetoric, persuasion, and the truth or falsity of argu- 11 ment in written form nonetheless continued well beyond Plato and culminated in the disputations of late Medieval Scholasticism.
Philosophy began, in other words, with a pressing need to sort out the true from the false in an age where the conflation of speech and writing made this necessary.
To be sure, there are Platonic and Aristotelian tendencies in both the Continental Rationalists and British Empiricists, but it would be a mis- take to characterize any of them as either Platonists or Aristotelians. Both Eisenstein and Deibert , along with many others, recognize the critical role of the printing press in bringing about this new cultural movement that broke the hegemony of the Ro- man Catholic Church thereby making room for new ideas, but other important conceptual transformations resulted from the printing press as well.
The mass production of writing encouraged literacy and a new sense of personal identity. The situation is nicely summarized by Deibert: The gradual rise of individualism as both a prevailing symbolic form and a predomi- nant moral idea flourished in the printing environment. The mass production of printed material favored newly circulating notions of authorship, copyright, and in- dividual subjectivity, while the portability of printed books facilitated the trend to- ward silent, private reading and intellectual isolation and reflection.
Political treatises on how best to run a state emerged in record number. Machiavelli, Rousseau and Locke are worthy examples of people who reinvented social and political philosophy, each from a different country and each with a different perspective. This cultural shift that favored text, private reading, intellectual isolation i. Coupled with the develop- ment of mathematics and the rise of science mentioned above, the stage was well-set for radical transformations in philosophy, due in no small part to the revolution in printing.
It is easy to see how both Ancient and Early Modern Philosophy were facili- tated by developments in information technology. However, the immediate rela- tionship between informational and philosophical development is less apparent in 19th Century philosophy, partly due to the fact that as we move through history the pace of technological development increases along with philosophical devel- opment.
In fact, it does appear that philosophical innovation flows smoothly from Kant through the 19th Century. The difficulty, however, in characterizing this as scholasticism is that, even though it was largely reactionary, it was, nonetheless, productive.
Even so, the reaction was largely centered around a telling issue, the individual against an emerging mass society, Hegel arguing on behalf of society on some readings and Marx, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche along with others advocating for the in- dividual that was being exploited or lost in a herd.
During this particular period of philosophy it was as if philosophy was anticipating changes in information technology that would come later in the century, or perhaps better put, that socie- ty itself was providing a vacuum that would need to be filled by such technolo- gies.
A brief timeline of the development of information technol- ogies makes this clear. This timeline clearly illustrates that throughout the second half of the 19th Century and after, society was exploding into a global communications environment.
At the same time, the 19th Century witnessed rapid development in science and mathematics. As with the philosophical revolution of the Enlightenment, mathematical and scientific innovation too would be felt on the philosophical scene. However, if I am correct in the general outline of the theory I am here sketching and according to the timeline above, philosophy should not really wake up and take this into account until after around , which seems to be the case.
Though Frege and Husserl were together in attacking psychologism, they disagreed fundamentally on the nature of meaning and quib- bled over several issues in the philosophy of mathematics Hill and Haddock By the time the smoke had cleared, we had two luminaries that would in- augurate two traditions for the 20th Century, the mathematical and logical phi- losophy of Frege and the phenomenological philosophy of Husserl.
Citations are scarcely necessary to posit Husserl as the father of the phenomenological method and the immediate predecessor of modern continental philosophy. Articulated this way, tying each of these traditions to the information climate of the time is not all that difficult. As the global communications environment jumped forward in leaps and bounds, language itself became the problem.
Here, we might consider Moore, Russell, Ayer, Wittgenstein, etc. The focus of their work was largely grounded in achieving philosophical clarity through the application of mathematical logic. On the other side of the divide, phenomenology sought its clarity through careful description of perceptual expe- rience with a strongly imagistic rather than linguistic bent.
Phenomenology is, after all, first and foremost, concerned with appearances even if the philosophy itself must be written in words. Nonetheless, as the century moved forward, the 14 problems and perils of language and media in general became explicit themes in continental philosophy, until we reached the philosophical crisis that characteriz- es the very end of the last century.
It is quite difficult to paint an adequate portrait of this scene. Continental phi- losophy has largely become constructivist in the sense that reality is carved out by language and media , thereby posing a problem for truth—how can there be such a thing if reality is just a narrative?
That the representation has replaced the presentation has become a hallmark of postmodern philosophies in a variety of forms and in some camps going so far as saying there are only representations! On the other side, no one seems to know precisely what contemporary analytic philosophy is other than just good, clear thinking reigned in by logical consisten- cy and the findings of science, in short, to risk overstatement, anything that is not continental.
Either way, both of these contemporary philosophical tendencies seem to be stuck, not merely by finger pointing at each other, but by having worn out their welcome on the academic stage.
After all, once one has reached the conclusion that reality is media, what is there left to say, and, on the other side, once one has decided to defer ultimately to science, then what is philosophy ex- cept philosophical guesswork and ground clearing in anticipation of genuine sci- entific findings.
Neither is entirely helpful; and to show my cards as a self-hating philosopher, the situation is a bit embarrassing both inside and outside the acad- emy. Who among us can stand up at a conference of non-philosophers and pro- nounce himself a philosopher without risking snide comments and early dismis- sal? The question that this raises here might sound cynical: is there anything left for philosophy to do, or is philosophy simply done for?
But it is nonetheless pressing, as I said earlier, not so much for the discipline of philosophy itself, but for the preservation of a world that needs philosophers now more than ever. Avoiding Relativism: Informational Structural Realism Does the notion that philosophy must adapt with the times to remain relevant suggest some form of relativism?
Can one be a constructivist and, yet, not a rela- tivist? I believe the answer to the first question is negative and the second affirm- ative, and, furthermore, that Floridi shows us a way that this can be so. To see this, we need to jump from the first chapter of his book to the last. But first a par- aphrased lesson from the master. As I noted in the provocation that began this paper, this master remarked that no great philosopher was wrong, but that each reported on how we stood in rela- tion to being during his historical epoch.
Such a claim certainly sounds relativ- istic, but this depends on what one thinks that philosophy ought to do. So, let us 15 consider the matter by analogy. Artists may not like art critics, each thinking that critics limit their individual creativity. Without this counter-measure, art risks spiraling into a meaningless abyss. The same thing may be said for philosophy. On analo- gy with the artist, philosophy may flourish only when it has something to say, and the lessons and paradigms needed to address problems from the past may simply not matter to the problems for the future which is not to say that we should ignore our past!
On this reading, philosophy can never end, since its job is not to establish a truth, but to inspire clear vision, to help us see what needs to be seen, to make us aware of where we stand in the broader scheme of things, to prioritize appropriately and to pose solutions to pressing social and scientific problems.
In this light, philosophy is not merely pragmatic, but productive. Of course, informationally-related phenomena need to serve as the subject of philosophy, but, equally important, changes in information technologies are also offering new methods to help us address and understand these phenomena and others. It is not my intentional to de- scribe this method fully here, but a few words about it are necessary to explain why a productive view of philosophy does not immediately entail relativism, short of simply saying that if philosophy is not about dogmatics then the question of relativism is besides the point even though, in a manner of speaking, it is.
LoAs are presented by Floridi as an improvement of the conceptual schemes analyzed and criticized by Davidson It may be useful, then, to make a distinction between these two kinds of explanation by reserving the term "historical explanation" for the kind of explanation that must appeal to a particular historical context to explain the fact that someone held a certain philosophical view. How, then, do we explain historically the historical fact that someone held a certain philosophical view, if he had no good for reason for doing so, and if we cannot find some line of reasoning and certain assumptions that we can easily imagine ourselves using?
We consider the historical context of the thought to see whether there is some history that will help explain why someone, given his historical situation, would come to hold this view. But at this point it is, perhaps, worthwhile to note the fact that it does not follow from the fact that someone held a philosophical view which has to be explained historically that it has to be explained in terms of the history of philosophy, by the historian of philosophy.
Perhaps we can avoid some confusion if we distinguish between ancient philosophy, or quite generally the philosophy of the past, on the one hand, and the study of this philosophy, on the other. There is an object, ancient philosophy, and this object allows for a certain kind of study. Often one uses the expression "the history of ancient philosophy" to refer to the object as a whole, but to avoid confusion we may prefer to reserve the term "history of philosophy" for a certain kind of study of this object and for the aspect of the object that is studied this way, namely the kind of study that tries to do philosophical justice to ancient philosophy.
The reason I think it is useful to make this distinction is this: it is not the task of the historian of philosophy to explain whatever philosophical view someone may have had, even if it is a historical fact, i. Nor is it the task of the historian of philosophy to find some explanation or other for such a historical fact. It is, rather, his task to find a certain kind of explanation for the view in question, namely the kind of explanation that is appropriate for the history of philosophy, rather than, say, the history of morals.
Thus it may be a historical fact of great significance that a certain politician held certain philosophical views, and this fact may admit only of a historical explanation.
But this may be a fact of no significance for the history of philosophy. The thought may not be remarkable as a philosophical thought, it may shed no light on the thought of earlier philosophers, and it may be of no help in understanding the thought of later philosophers.
It may even be that it is an important historical fact that a philosopher held certain philosophical views, but this in itself does not guarantee him a place in the history of philosophy, since the only reason his views were so important may have xiv been that he was the friend of an important politican whose politics were very much influenced by his philosophical views. It is easy to see that some philosophical thoughts do not enter the history of philosophy because they lack historical significance.
It is also easy enough to see that some philosophical thoughts do not enter the history of philosophy because they are of no significance for this history. It is not so easy to say positively that a philosophical thought is to be considered a part of the history of philosophy. Ultimately this will depend on the conception one has of the history of philosophy. But it does seem safe to say that we want those philosophical thoughts to be part of the history of philosophy that had a considerable philosophical influence on later philosophical thought.
A thought may have philosophical influence on later thought in any number of ways: it may make the philosophical problem at issue appear different, it may suggest other views one could take on this problem, it may open up new ways to argue for a given view, it may reveal the limitations of a line of argument that had been accepted thus far.
If a good deal of later philosophical thought can be seen to depend on some earlier philosophical thought in this way, the earlier thought no doubt forms part of the history of philosophy.
And the more the thoughts that are influenced by earlier thought in turn are philosophically influential, the clearer it will be that the original thought should be part of a history of philosophy. Now, to say that a philosophical thought has been philosophically influential is to say that there are philosophical thoughts that somehow depend on it, that in some way have to be explained in terms of it.
But a thought may depend on an earlier thought in several ways. The simplest case would seem to be one in which a later philosopher adopts a view for a good reason, but the view and the reason are sufficiently complex so that one assumes that his taking this view for this reason was facilitated, or even made possible, by the fact that an earlier philosopher had taken this view for this reason.
More complex cases are those in which a later philosopher adopts a view for reasons that do not constitute good reasons because he has convinced himself that some earlier philosopher who adopted the view for these reasons had good reasons to adopt it, or, more generally cases in which a later philosopher adopts a view for reasons that do not constitute good reasons because he has been persuaded by the thought of some earlier philosopher that what he regards as reasons to adopt the view are good reasons.
Almost all philosophical thought depends on earlier thought in this way. What this reflects is simply the fact that we always do philosophy against the background of the philosophical views and the philosophical reasoning of at least our immediate predecessors, that we cannot, at least to begin with, see the problems except in terms of the views and the reasons of our predecessors, and that however much we free ourselves from their views and reasons, there will always be some dependence on them.
If early modern philosophy seems or even at times pretends to stand on its own feet, it can do so only as long as we know very little about the history of Hellenistic and late Medieval philosophy. So what the history of philosophy in the narrower sense seems to be made up of are those philosophical thoughts which are influential in this way. Nor is it the task of the historian of philosophy to find some explanation or other for the philosophical thoughts that enter the history of philosophy.
The historian of philosophy will, rather, go on the assumption that philosophical views are usually set forth for philosophical reasons. He recognizes that sometimes philosophical views are put forth by philosophers who are quite aware that they do not have a good reason to hold them, but the historian of philosophy, nevertheless, and often rightly, thinks that it would be worthwhile to consider these views.
More may be gained by this than by considering uninteresting or boring views for which excellent reasons have been offered. But the paradigm is that of a philosopher who adopts a view because he thinks he has a good reason to do so. The historian of philosophy will try to identify the reasons for which he adopts the view and will see whether they constitute a good reason for doing so. Failing this, he will see whether he can reconstruct some line of reasoning that would make it intelligble why the philosopher thought his reasons constituted good reasons and hence adopted the view, a philosophical line of reasoning that even one of us might still avail himself of.
Only if this also fails will the historian of philosophy resort to a historical explanation in terms of the history of philosophy.
But he will still insist that it is because the philosopher had reasons for holding a certain view and that there must be some philosophical considerations that will explain why the philosopher in question took these reasons to be adequate reasons, except that now these philosophical considerations are dated; only someone in the historical situation of the philosopher in question could avail himself of such considerations.
They are the kinds of considerations we would expect someone who is dependent on the thoughts of those predecessors to take seriously. We ourselves can imagine that if we were in those circumstances there would be nothing remarkable, noteworthy, surprising, or astonishing, if we examined these considerations and concluded that the reasons we had for the view in question constituted good reasons to adopt it. It is at this point in particular that the historian of philosophy will have to display all his historical learning and his philosophical ingenuity.
For he will have i to try to reconstruct some philosophical line of reasoning that would explain why the author in question thought his reasons for holding the belief adequate, and ii to make a case for saying that it was, indeed, because of such a line of reasoning that the author thought his reasons adequate. To do the first often requires much philosophical resoucefulness; to do the second requires a firm grasp on what kind of reasoning, which kinds of philosophical considerations were available at the time.
It must rely on assumptions that not only are unwarranted, but that one can plausibly make only in such a historical context. Or it will rely on a mode of reasoning that is inconclusive, and that could be found acceptable only in such a historical context.
And we must be able to identify these flaws or mistakes. For we do want to say that the author came to hold his view because he made these mistakes and that it was because of these mistakes, understandable as they may be, that he thought that his reasons for holding his view were adequate. Often, though, not even this kind of explanation is available to us. For, however hard we try, we are not able to find a set of philosophical considerations we ourselves might have used in this historical situation on purely philosophical grounds.
Even given the thought of the relevant predecessors, we cannot see ourselves making these assumptions or finding these arguments acceptable. In purely philosophical terms and in terms of the history of philosophy in the narrow sense, there is something remarkable, noteworthy, surprising, astonishing about the flaws and the mistakes that led the philosopher to take his reasons to be good reasons for his view. It is at this point that we have to look for a historical explanation outside the history of philosophy, an explanation in terms of some other historical context, some other history.
Thus we might conclude that the only way to understand why the philosopher came to avail himself of a certain line of reasoning is by assuming that he found it difficult to avail himself of certain lines of reasoning that would have been preferable on philosophical grounds because of his religious convictions, the religious convictions of the time, and because of the way in which such convictions were encouraged and conflicting views were discouraged.
One may note, first, that in actual practice it is quite difficult to determine in a particular case how far one should go in trying to provide a philosopher with a line of reasoning that is intelligble at least in the light of the history of philosophy, and when one should just give up and look at an explanation in terms of some other history. Naturally enough, historians of philosophy try to take the philosophers of the past seriously as philosophers and hence go as far as they possibly can to explain their thought in terms of purely philosophical considerations.
Secondly, we may assume that the selectivity with which the historian of philosophy deals with the philosophy of the past results in much philosophical thought that stands in need of a historical explanation in terms of some history other than the history of philosophy being dropped from consideration. It seems that the philosophers who play a crucial role in the history of philosophy are in general those whose thought we can explain without having to refer to some other history.
But however narrowly we conceive of the history of philosophy, it will still be the case that some of the thought it deals with will have to be understood in terms of some other history. So though the historian of philosophy usually explains those philosophical views of the past that enter into the history of philosophy in terms of philosophical considerations, it is obvious for the reasons given above that this will often not suffice to understand the fact that a philosopher took a certain view, because it will not suffice to explain the mistakes he made.
And unless these mistakes are trivial because they are the kinds of mistakes any of us occasionally make, they need an explanation in terms of some other history. We might come to the conclusion that the fact that a philosopher availed himself of a certain line of reasoning had to be understood in terms of the history of the social structure of his society, which made it very difficult for him to think of certain matters other than as he did.
We may suspect that the reason he was inclined toward a certain line of philosophical reasoning has something to do with the history of religion and that this will also explain why it was rather difficult to adopt certain lines of philosophical reasoning, though on purely philosophical grounds they may have seemed preferable even then.
Neither last nor least, it might occur to one that the purusit of philosophy is also a social institution, with its history in terms of which we can explain that students have views resembling the views of their teachers, and that at times it would have been quite difficult to have views different from the views of one's teachers or one's school. There are any number of ways in which some history other than the history of philosophy may interfere with the thought of a philosopher in such a way that it no longer is intelligible just on philosophical grounds, not even on the philosophical grounds available at that point in the history of philosophy.
Now, though I think that one should conceive of the history of philosophy in this way, I also think that thinking of it in this way involves an enormous abstraction and idealization. One goes on the assumption that, in general, philosophers adopted certain views because they had certain philosophical reasons for doing so.
But, in fact, it seems that philosophical views grow on one in a highly complex manner, of which our philosophical reasons and our philosophical considerations form only a part.
We have seen that even in the case in which a philosopher has a good reason for adopting the view he does and no doubt holds xviii it for this reason, we may, nevertheless, think that he depends for his view on some earlier philosopher from whom he has learned to see the matter correctly and without whom, we might think, he would never come to hold the right view for the right reasons; and this, in turn, is perfectly compatible with the further assumption that our philosopher, given his nonphilosophical, e.
We will never understand the origins of Greek philosophy by looking only at the philosophical considerations that led Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes to their philosophical views, unless we understand enough about the history of Greek society to understand why at this point this society needed something like philosophy, and how this influenced the thoughts of the first philosophers. That philosophers hold their views for philosophical reasons is perfectly compatible with the assumption that there are many other histories influencing their thought.
This is most apparent when their thought gets derailed in such a way that we can no longer understand it in terms of purely philosophical considerations. But the same kinds of influences that reveal themselves in this case are also operative even when the philosopher adopts a view for purely philosophical reasons. In fact, one may become quite impressed by how firmly embedded the thought of philosophers is in the life of their societies and even in their own lives.
I have been struck for a long time by how autobiographical, as it were, the thought of philosophers is. It does not take much reflection to see that it is not surprising that the topics philosophers concentrate on, the general approach they take to their topics, the way they argue, the way they set forth their views, and often even the questions they consider are very much a reflection of their life and their personality.
And it is no less surprising that the thought of philosophers should closely reflect the life, the history, and the character of the societies they live in. One cannot understand why friendship plays such an important role in ancient moral philosophy that Aristotle devotes two books of his Ethics to it unless one understands the enormous role friendship played as a social institution in classical Greece.
One cannot understand why Plato and Aristotle subordinate ethics to politics unless one recognizes that the relation between the individual and the political community was very different in classical Greece from what it is now and, correspondingly, that it was conceived of rather differently.
It is difficult to understand on purely philosophical grounds why almost the whole philosophy of late antiquity should be some form of Platonism; obviously, there is a connection between the dominance of Platonism and the new religions that conquered the Roman Empire. To think this is to underrate the intellectual power, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and honesty of certain philosophers who would have been ready to transform, modify, or, if necessary, give up any of their views, to arrive at a set of beliefs for which they could have produced satisfactory reasons, even though they might have started out by trying to justify a view they were inclined toward on other grounds.
And it is in terms of these reasons that we have to try to understand their views, unless we want to think that there is something misguided about the whole enterprise of philosophy that allows us to discount the philosophers' claim to hold philosophical views for philosophical reasons. Moreover, we have to keep in mind that even if we came to believe that the philosophical reasons given frequently are mere rationalizations, they nonetheless are reasons that have to be considered as such, and that they might turn out to be perfectly good reasons, in spite of the fact that they may have been espoused for other reasons.
What is more, the way they influence this history of philosophy is not as rationalizations, but as reasons, as good or bad, plausible or implausible reasons. It is because of this that the history of philosophy tries to explain the views of philosophers, as far as this is possible, on purely philosophical grounds. But even if we think of the history of philosophy in this way, we may, for the reasons given, also want to insist that the thought of philosophers is tied to various histories, several of which may help to explain why a certain philosopher held a certain philosophical view, even if it was for philosophical reasons, or even good philosophical reasons, that he held it.
What is more, these histories often help to shape philosophical thought, namely when its precise form and content is no longer determined by purely philosophical considerations.
Moreover, we have to keep in mind that philosophical thought itself helps to shape many other histories. Thus, if we regard ancient philosophy an an object, this object, either as a whole or in part, enters into many histories.
It is because of this that it can be pursued in many different ways, all of which have something to contribute to a fuller understanding of this object.Naturally enough, historians of philosophy try to take the sciences of the past seriously as freelancers and hence go as far as they certainly can to explain their battery in terms of international philosophical considerations. Luckily is an publication, ancient philosophy, and this ancient allows for a certain definite of study. Understanding where we have been is touched to help us un- derstand philosophy we are organized, and if these changes are informational in finding, then we need to understand the source of information and how it has concep- tual change. Spinoza and Leibniz both began in the wake of this mathematization of traditional method, which is still apparent Edinburgh university primary pgce personal statement analogous views on logic-based lying today.
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Second, there is precedent for looking at the role of developing technologies in scientific revolutions Kuhn , and since we are considering a discipline that trades in informational phe- nomena i. A thought may have philosophical influence on later thought in any number of ways: it may make the philosophical problem at issue appear different, it may suggest other views one could take on this problem, it may open up new ways to argue for a given view, it may reveal the limitations of a line of argument that had been accepted thus far. To consider the philosophical thoughts of ancient philosophers only as such, will provide one with a very partial understanding of ancient philosophy. But in this case his behavior would not be readily and immediately intelligible to us, precisely because we would first have to realize that he acted on a different conception of what constitutes a good reason, and then we would have to understand why he had this different conception.
Schofield, M. And it is no less surprising that the thought of philosophers should closely reflect the life, the history, and the character of the societies they live in. In , this was almost MB of recorded data produced per person. Many of them, in one way or another, are also of great historical importance. Indeed, Cohen notes that blood feud was transposed into the Athenian court system, where battles could be fought out in argument, thereby creating a culture centered around rhetoric both for the sake of vengeance and social control. Though citing analytic sources and appearing in an analytic book, the theory also has a bit of a continental ring to it, which, as I will emphasize later, is 3 a benefit and not a deficit in Floridi's overall work.
This cultural shift that favored text, private reading, intellectual isolation i.
From Hegel to Nietzsche: The revolution in nineteenth-century thought. It may be useful, then, to make a distinction between these two kinds of explanation by reserving the term "historical explanation" for the kind of explanation that must appeal to a particular historical context to explain the fact that someone held a certain philosophical view. Thus we might conclude that the only way to understand why the philosopher came to avail himself of a certain line of reasoning is by assuming that he found it difficult to avail himself of certain lines of reasoning that would have been preferable on philosophical grounds because of his religious convictions, the religious convictions of the time, and because of the way in which such convictions were encouraged and conflicting views were discouraged. And unless these mistakes are trivial because they are the kinds of mistakes any of us occasionally make, they need an explanation in terms of some other history. In addition, it is worth pointing out changes in the socio-political landscape as well: Facebook, for instance, created only seven years ago in , is nearing million members, making it the third largest civic organization on the planet after India and China and the largest social science database ever compiled in the history of the world!
Perhaps we can avoid some confusion if we distinguish between ancient philosophy, or quite generally the philosophy of the past, on the one hand, and the study of this philosophy, on the other. One answer to this question is that it provides a way of keeping philosophy relevant to a particu- lar set of problems for a particular time and place. Furthermore, the situation is desperate for the discipline of philosophy, but much more so for the preservation of a world ecosphere and infosphere that needs philosophers not reactionaries now more than ever. Hence, I am grateful to the University of Minnesota Press for this opportunity to present these papers in a form which makes them more easily available, and to Princeton University which, by a grant, made this publication possible.
Chapter 7, "Stoic vs.
In so doing, he inaugurated new paradigms in both metaphysics and epistemology. These external forces cannot be ignored, due to their magni- tude and their sudden acceleration. But, in fact, it seems that philosophical views grow on one in a highly complex manner, of which our philosophical reasons and our philosophical considerations form only a part. Crossing this great philosoph- ical divide must be seen as an achievement in this day and age, as others e. Proceedings and Ad- dresses of the American Philosophical Association So though the historian of philosophy usually explains those philosophical views of the past that enter into the history of philosophy in terms of philosophical considerations, it is obvious for the reasons given above that this will often not suffice to understand the fact that a philosopher took a certain view, because it will not suffice to explain the mistakes he made.
Of course, informationally-related phenomena need to serve as the subject of philosophy, but, equally important, changes in information technologies are also offering new methods to help us address and understand these phenomena and others.
If a good deal of later philosophical thought can be seen to depend on some earlier philosophical thought in this way, the earlier thought no doubt forms part of the history of philosophy. A thought may have philosophical influence on later thought in any number of ways: it may make the philosophical problem at issue appear different, it may suggest other views one could take on this problem, it may open up new ways to argue for a given view, it may reveal the limitations of a line of argument that had been accepted thus far. The historian of philosophy will try to identify the reasons for which he adopts the view and will see whether they constitute a good reason for doing so. In historical accounts of ancient life there are few aspects of that life which do not involve some reference to the fact that some philosopher had a certain view and many aspects of that life into which philosophy enters quite substantially, e. McLuhan, M. But we may also come to the conclusion that the person, even given his own conception, did not have a good reason to do what he did.
Still, we may feel sufficiently confident that the philosopher had no good reason to think what he did.
The focus of their work was largely grounded in achieving philosophical clarity through the application of mathematical logic. We might, e.