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Une histoire de la philosophie est-elle encore possible ? Is a history of philosophy still possible?

Abstract : It may seem paradoxical to consider a history of philosophy when especially in France it is common to assume that the entire philosophy has entered its own history, has become “history of philosophy” We can assume it is not that simple. In 1956, Maurice Merleau-Ponty published an ambitious history of philosophy whose title serves as an indicator of the distance between ‘them’ and ‘us’: “les philosophes célèbres” (the famous philosophers). He faced the challenge due to the issue of a multitude of facts and names by the omission of certain personalities and the grouping of collective categories. Twenty years later – in Raymond Queneau’s Pléiade-encyclopedia, the three volumes by Brice Parain and Yvon Belaval (almost 4500 pages on bible paper) offered a synthetic approach by the world’s leading specialists that remained open-minded towards the world’s most diverse philosophical traditions. But is it a “history of philosophy”? It surely fulfilled the ecyclopedic bet by focusingon on comprehensiveness but was it a ‘gate to philosophy’? Finally the immense “Encyclopédie philosophique universelle” helmed by André Jacob in the 1990s. It addresses concepts, authors and discourses and the whole of philosophical problems. Again – is this a history of philosophy? Actually none of the above mentioned works directly trace back to a project of a history of philosophy. Every single one of them state it as impossible. There is no agreement on the content of such a history, nor on its unity, evolution or turning points. The consequential space and time dispersion avoids a final definition of the object. The Plato-Kant-lineage has – as have other similar ones – lost its obviousness. Philosophy can therefore be treated by means of historical institutionalism or even professional sociology – neither of them dealing with a philosophic discourse’s validity but at least they attempt to objectivise it. The general trends seem to ignore what underlies the the history of philosophy, namely history requesting philosophication, through a reactivation of its object by interpretation. Alas New Historicism tends to increase the gap between our world and the works of the past, including its philosophies In the last few decades the project of a history of philosophy has been challenged even further by various positions. Its unity and identity have been contested, or assumed by heterogeneous discourses. The upsurge of historicism is further enhanced by a by a new interpretation of our relationship with historical time. Some historians see a ‘presentism’ at work shattering the dimensions of past traditions and promising futures through a repetition compulsion of the same. History in this view slips towards the news – a pure contingency of illegible facts. The different eras, each centered on their own present, are based on irreconcilable coordinates.
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Contributor : Denis Thouard <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 3:13:12 PM
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Denis Thouard. Une histoire de la philosophie est-elle encore possible ? Is a history of philosophy still possible?. 2019. ⟨halshs-02395505⟩

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