Monday, January 15, 2007

Philosophical Problems

Donald Phillip Verene writes in Philosophy and the Return to Self-Knowledge (1997) that “There comes a time not to be the interpreter, not to think about the philosophers’ doctrines, but to think about what the philosophers thought about. This is an attempt to get to the inner form of ideas. For this there is no formula. It requires us simply to use whatever ingenuity we have.” (p.xvii)

I like the idea of reaching a point where we stop reciting what others’ have said and start thinking about what we think. But the idea that we will be thinking about the same things that the philosophers thought about is problematic. There is the view associated with Rorty among others that the “eternal problems” approach to philosophy is ahistorical and illusory. The idea that we’re debating the same problems as the Greeks is created through an historical reconstruction.