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Do philosophers of history operate on any kind of different modes of thinking or

Do philosophers of history operate on any kind of different modes of thinking or inquiry as compared to professional historians? One question I'm struggling to understand is just when if ever does studying history lead to normative ethics for the present day on how to act towards certain groups?

Interesting! In order to practice and contribute to the philosophy of history, philosophers need to know both a wide range of works of history as well as to know about the methods employed by historians, but they do not need to be historians themselves. So, in your terms, philosophers of history need not use the same "modes of inquiry as compared to professional historians." The same is true in, say, philosophy of art in general or philosophy of biology. In philosophy of history general questions are raised about truth, testimony, the meaning of events, the nature of causation and historical explanation, and so on. Professional historians may presuppose a philosophy of truth (etc) but in constructing the history of the French Revolution (for example), they need not engage in any explicit reflection on alternative philosophies of truth, testimony, etc. As for history leading to normative ethics, matters are complex. Arguably the practice of history itself will rest on some value judgements (even if it is the vague judgement that some events are more interesting to study than others). But apart from the values that are assumed as the motive for doing history, the practice of history may be ethically illuminating in many ways, including:

History provides us with the opportunity to learn of (and from) the moral thinking of others. For a great book on this, see Thomas Carson's Lincoln's Ethics, Cambridge University press. Brilliant!

Historical accounts may inform our assigning responsibilities for good or ill in the present. We may, for example, discover that some of us today have duties of compensation owed to others.

Historians may uncover cultures and traditions that offer us today cogent or challenging teachings about values that we have neglected

History may provide us with patterns we can learn from. I think that the architects of the western incursion into Iraq could have learned the imprudence of this act based on the study of similar invasions.

That is only a beginning. For an excellent introduction to philosophy of history, see History and Theory; Contemporary Readings ed. by Brian Fay, P. Pomper, and R.T. Vann.

Interesting! In order to practice and contribute to the philosophy of history, philosophers need to know both a wide range of works of history as well as to know about the methods employed by historians, but they do not need to be historians themselves. So, in your terms, philosophers of history need not use the same "modes of inquiry as compared to professional historians." The same is true in, say, philosophy of art in general or philosophy of biology. In philosophy of history general questions are raised about truth, testimony, the meaning of events, the nature of causation and historical explanation, and so on. Professional historians may presuppose a philosophy of truth (etc) but in constructing the history of the French Revolution (for example), they need not engage in any explicit reflection on alternative philosophies of truth, testimony, etc. As for history leading to normative ethics, matters are complex. Arguably the practice of history itself will rest on some value judgements (even if...

Can historical value judgements be objective? Because questions presuppose other

Can historical value judgements be objective? Because questions presuppose other questions having been answered, it seems crucial to figure out what prior questions it assumes, and philosophy of history often boils down to the psychological motives of people and individuals which must involve interpretations and not just a listing of facts.

To begin with some of your observations and then move to your question: I believe you are quite right that history involves more than the listing of facts that might be more true of a chronicle than a history and the practice of history involves interpretation. While for some historians and in some philosophies of history psychological motives and individual agency are important, but for Marxist historians and a Marxist philosophy of history there is more of a stress on economic forces and social relations. I suggest that the more plausible philosophies of history recognize historical explanations as a species or type of causal explanation. So, in my view, an historical explanation of the French Revolution identifies elements persons, events the explain what happened in France in 1789 for example implying that if those elements had not occurred, the French Revolution would not have taken place. If the historian thinks the French Revolution WOULD have occurred any way, her primary explanation is nonetheless causal though it is on her account a sufficient but not necessary cause. Causal historical explanations may also involve a kind of over-determination. For example, in the USA today, the explanation of why Republicans oppose the current President's foreign policy may be both because of the content of the policy itself but also because they are the policies of a Democratic President. Either explanation alone can account for the stand taken by Republicans, but together both explanations may truly capture the current situation as well as explain the zeal behind the Republican's position --what you might refer to as their psychological motives.

After your question "Can historical value judgements be objective?" you write about "questions presuppose other questions" and you refer to identifying questions that have been answered. This suggests to me you are thinking that your first question presupposes a view of objective values and an answer to questions about how to distinguish objective from subjective values. I am not sure how to respond in the abstract, but I suggest that it is difficult to practice history without a commitment to value judgements about what to study, how to study events, and how to understand, and thus to some extent assess, individual agents and collective agency the action of nations, states, empires, cities, tribes. Take at random two historical questions, one which seems only to implicitly involves values: Did Marco Polo go to China *as he reports? and Did the Confederacy in the American Civil War leave the union and go to war to preserve and expand slavery? To answer either question one needs some theory of evidence and so this might involve a view of the value of evidence from some kind of objective point of view --that is, not relying on hunches or subjective preferences. So, such questions do require some kind of objective value judgements, I believe. The second question more explicitly invokes matters of value for it carries with it matters of praise and blame *perhaps praise for Lincoln and blame for the Confederacy. I suggest that the practice of history today implicitly involves a commitment to an impartial point of view. There would be something wrong about claiming that that a Confederate history and a Federal history of the Civil War --or the war between the states are equally valid true and incompatible e.g. it is both true and false that slavery was a war aim for the South.

To begin with some of your observations and then move to your question: I believe you are quite right that history involves more than the listing of facts that might be more true of a chronicle than a history and the practice of history involves interpretation. While for some historians and in some philosophies of history psychological motives and individual agency are important, but for Marxist historians and a Marxist philosophy of history there is more of a stress on economic forces and social relations. I suggest that the more plausible philosophies of history recognize historical explanations as a species or type of causal explanation. So, in my view, an historical explanation of the French Revolution identifies elements persons, events the explain what happened in France in 1789 for example implying that if those elements had not occurred, the French Revolution would not have taken place. If the historian thinks the French Revolution WOULD have occurred any way, her primary explanation...

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a passion for history and a joint passion for Philosophy? Nathan V.

Yes The clearest case of when you would need to be both a historian and a philosopher is when you write a history of philosophy. Expertise in both fields would also be highly valuable in writing philosophy of history. Apart from these two categories, the blending of philosophy and history (or the virtues of being both a philosopher and a historian) may vary.

Consider matters from the standpoint of history: When would a history (or a historian) be aided by philosophy?

Because one may write a history of any number of things (persons, events...) from a history of warfare to a history of agriculture, it may not be obvious when philosophy comes into play. Off hand, it seems that some philosophy will be inevitable in any history insofar as the history reflects a view (or a philosophy) of evidence, explanation, relevance, reasons and causes. But there are cases when philosophy seems more explicit as in a history of the French revolution versus a history of the first cities in the world.

From the standpoint of philosophy: When would philosophy (or philosophers) be aided by history? Some historical grounding seems important in even the most abstract philosophical matters (the philosophy of mathematics, for example), but there are philosophical questions that seem less sensitive to historical conditions. Arguably, questions about whether there can be an actual infinite does not depend (or depend significantly) on the time or place they are raised. Arguments about infinity are not merely of academic interest, but they have been employed by many philosophers (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) in arguments for the existence of God.

Yes The clearest case of when you would need to be both a historian and a philosopher is when you write a history of philosophy. Expertise in both fields would also be highly valuable in writing philosophy of history. Apart from these two categories, the blending of philosophy and history (or the virtues of being both a philosopher and a historian) may vary. Consider matters from the standpoint of history: When would a history (or a historian) be aided by philosophy? Because one may write a history of any number of things (persons, events...) from a history of warfare to a history of agriculture, it may not be obvious when philosophy comes into play. Off hand, it seems that some philosophy will be inevitable in any history insofar as the history reflects a view (or a philosophy) of evidence, explanation, relevance, reasons and causes. But there are cases when philosophy seems more explicit as in a history of the French revolution versus a history of the first cities in the world. From the...

Are there any histories of philosophy that focus on the ideas of the

Are there any histories of philosophy that focus on the ideas of the philosophers in their effort to philosophically ground ideas about the universe that reveal it as profound, mysterious, or divine? I sometimes I think that histories of philosophy gloss over the more obscure religious and metaphysical thinking of philosophers and they don't really elucidate the gravity and spiritual ambitions behind those philosophers ideas and instead focus on their technical significance. (Spinoza was doing far more than just healing a contradiction in Descartes's concept of finite being for example) Those few things I've read that do talk about the spiritual ideas of great philosophers of the past however just state those great ideas without any reference to the intellectual basis the philosophers had for making those claims. I want a real philosophical introduction to the history of "profound" thinking about the universe that actually attempts to elucidate the grounds of their thinking.

Great question. Some philosophers seem to have deliberately sought to secularize the story of philosophy. I think this is probably true in the case of John Dewey (even though he did praise a naturalistic piety or "religious sensibility"). A classic, intro history to philosophy, Will Durran't The Story of Philosophy glides over the whole medieval era, Many philosophers both during his life time and today, seem (in my mind) to utterly miss or underestimate the deep sense of mystery that runs through the work of Wittgenstein. There is a wonderful overview of Wittgenstein's spirituality in the opening chapters of Kai-man Kwan's The Rainbow of Experiences, Critical Trust and God.

In terms of histories: Copleston wrote a multi-volume history of philosophy that is fair minded, and (as himself a Roman Catholic thinker) he is keen to explore matters of the divine, deep questions of values and their role in the universe. Anthony Kenny is probably the greatest living historian of philosophy, and he, too, is very exercised by religious themes and the religious implications of different accounts of the mind and the world. Although he was trained as a philosopher, Elliade Mircea (1907-86) focussed most of his life of the history of religion. But you will find him exploring a number of ideas that you appear to want to engage; I recommend beginning with his Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. Around 50 years ago or so Stephen Pepper wrote an interesting book on World Hypotheses that you might find engaging. He explores different root metaphors that can be used to shed light on different conceptions of the cosmos.

Great question. Some philosophers seem to have deliberately sought to secularize the story of philosophy. I think this is probably true in the case of John Dewey (even though he did praise a naturalistic piety or "religious sensibility"). A classic, intro history to philosophy, Will Durran't The Story of Philosophy glides over the whole medieval era, Many philosophers both during his life time and today, seem (in my mind) to utterly miss or underestimate the deep sense of mystery that runs through the work of Wittgenstein. There is a wonderful overview of Wittgenstein's spirituality in the opening chapters of Kai-man Kwan's The Rainbow of Experiences, Critical Trust and God. In terms of histories: Copleston wrote a multi-volume history of philosophy that is fair minded, and (as himself a Roman Catholic thinker) he is keen to explore matters of the divine, deep questions of values and their role in the universe. Anthony Kenny is probably the greatest living historian of philosophy, and he, too,...