Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Immanuel Kant On The Historians of Philosophy

In the second paragraph of Introduction to his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Immanuel Kant says that scholars should not confuse philosophy with the history of philosophy. 

Here’s the excerpt: 

“There are scholarly men, to whom the history of philosophy (both ancient and modern) is philosophy itself; for these the present Prolegomena are not written. They must wait till those who endeavor to draw from the fountain of reason itself have completed their work; it will then be the historian's turn to inform the world of what has been done. Unfortunately, nothing can be said, which in their opinion has not been said before, and truly the same prophecy applies to all future time; for since the human reason has for many centuries speculated upon innumerable objects in various ways, it is hardly to be expected that we should not be able to discover analogies for every new idea among the old sayings of past ages.” 

2 comments:

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

Kant is not saying that the history of philosophy is not philosophy; he is asserting that historians of philosophy are not competent to recognize philosophical innovation during the episode of its introduction. One might elide this to say that historians of philosophy are not good philosophers; but it does not deny that inferior philosophy is philosophy.

Of course, at best, Kant's claim would be bitter hyperbole on his part. But the Prolegomena was written in the wake of his Critique of Pure Reason having been poorly received.

Anoop Verma said...

Thank you for the comment Daniel. I think your inference is correct.