I came on the formulation after reading Milton, Hawthorne and Melville; after talking to and reading Peter Hacker and Anthony Kenny. As an academic subject--as a path of inquiry producing new knowledge--the subject of Philosophy is passé (compare astrology, maybe)--and that in its place the proper subject of inquiry is rather the history of philosophy. I am being somewhat contrarian to underscore a point. Walking forward from this, I should recall the idea I've here before, that philosophy is in no small measure the practice of "gossiping about school teachers and the things they say and do." One has to be careful with such characterizations, but I am very sure this is a journalistic project.
My uncle was a professor of ancient history with a PhD in Hittitology from the University of Chicago. When I was still a lad, he taught me that the history of the past 2000 years was "mere journalism". Some years later, I shared my uncle's idea with a person I was close to back in Scotland, the former Dean of Arts at St Andrews University, Donald Bullough, who was a fellow of St John's College, Oxford, and an historian with books on Charlemagne and Medieval Europe. Anyway, as I shared my uncle's idea with Donald, he winced; but then a rather bemused expression as of remembrance or "a happy insight" came over his face, and with a warm smile he insisted, "Your uncle is absolutely right!" What this means for philosophy I can't say precisely, but one would expect philosophers to include in their repertoire an understanding of the full expository possibilities given by the English language, which obviously should include a "poet's sensitivity" to the fine nuances of credulity and conceptual illusion that the language has a tendency to conjure; as well possessing a deep and imaginative knowledge of the historical contexts that frame philosophers as they exercise themselves and say remarkable (and curious) things.
|Jacques-Louis David, "Minerva Fighting Mars" (1771)