Rules for History of Philosophy

In the comments to Shyam’s recent post on interpretation vs explication, I left a link to Peter Adamson’s recent post,”Rules for History of Philosophy.” While I imagine many readers will have already seen it (it’s been posted elsewhere), perhaps some of you have thoughts about these rules in light of Shyam’s post, or in light of their applicability to Indian philosophy more specifically?

In particular, I appreciate his Rule 15: Be broadminded about what counts as “philosophy”, since we have already discussed a few times the philosophical importance of śāstras like nīti, vyākaraṇa and alaṁkāra. Are there other ways in which we should be more broadminded, and how should this impact our doing philosophy?

About Malcolm Keating

Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Humanities (Philosophy) at Yale-NUS College, Singapore.

10 thoughts on “Rules for History of Philosophy

  1. Thanks for posting those rules, Malcolm! They are great. I feel privileged to have been tasked with learning and teaching Chinese philosophy early in my teaching career, and spending time with the Daodejing and Daoism in general. It has been a good experience to see how deeply philosophical a text can be, when the text itself is not written as a philosophical treatise.

    • I am slow in responding to Malcolm’s response to my earlier post and this one but: Ethan, thanks for posting Schwitzgebel ‘s response. I absolutely agree: charity is not only not obviously appropriate for the study of the history of philosophy, it has an ironic consequence. Instead of allowing us to understand the reasons of the third party we are trying to study (our philosopher of choice) it leads us to insert ourselves, and our perspective, into the mix, as though our beliefs have to be a gate to the intelligibility of the third party. But Malcolm’s post had to do with a more specific appeal to open mindedness (broadmindedness). My response is related.

  2. If I don’t have to rely upon my beliefs in the study of philosophy (that is, if I don’t have to rely upon what I think is true) then I don’t have to worry about being broadminded. But if I rely upon my beliefs in the study of philosophy then I have to endeavor to be broadminded, for my failure to be broadminded will impact on the kinds of beliefs I employ in the study of philosophy. (I might sound like a strange right-wing libertarian on this—not my intention—but those who worry constantly about their biases are operating with a theory of knowledge that makes use of their commitments, for if my commitments play an inferential role in my reasoning and understanding, my biases will impact on my understanding. The point of disciplinary research—yoga—is to take us away from having to rely upon our beliefs: yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ; tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe ‘vasthānam. My account of explication is an attempt to account for what the discipline of philosophy looks like. But as noted, that requires its own response to Malcolm’s kind earlier response to the previous post.)

    • I have libertarian friends (though they wouldn’t call themselves “right wing”); I don’t think they are strange at all, even if I don’t agree with their political philosophy. I’m not sure why such an aside is needed or helpful in our discussion at all.

      • sorry! I meant it not as a characterization of libertarians, or the the right wing, but a strange point that is an intersection of these— the idea that we can be completely callous about prejudice.

        • Also, I think that as I put the comment, it was a description not of libertarians, or those on the right, but a peculiar hybrid, which fits with your observation that libertarians are not necessarily on the right.

          • Oh, and to why this is needed or helpful, perhaps you will disagree, but I think that this strange hybrid position (that we should be treated as completely free to decide as we choose while using this as a cover for prejudice) is a problem that those with a concern for being broadminded might have in view.

  3. There was no room to directly reply to your final comment, Shyam, so I am putting it here: I guess I am just sensitive to the way that what seem to be unnecessary political asides can serve to make certain people feel excluded or unwanted within circles that aren’t meant to be drawn on political grounds. And when you have friends with a certain view, friends who are reasonable, smart, and decent, you refuse to be complicit in “other-izing” them. No teeth or anger in what I said, just such a refusal.

    I see that that’s not what you meant to do, so thanks. It seems to me that your final point expressed in the comments is a great one.

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