The sweeping narratives in the history of philosophy tend to be conflict-centered: Modern science drives out Aristotelian thought; nominalism drives out other forms of realism; rights theory drives out justice/ virtue based theories, etc. These sorts of sweeping conflict-narratives have their place, but all of them leave out some pretty obvious stuff: no one, for example, thinks that modern science provided new, cutting edge responses to Parmenidean monism or Platonic forms, but a massive amount of Aristotle’s thought consists in exactly this sort of response. Huge tracts of his thought – in fact the very foundations of his thought – are tied up with the idea of how motion could be intelligible at all; but the thought of someone leafing through the pages of the Principia to find an answer to this is just funny. And so in addition to the notion of conflict, we also need some idea of the history of philosophy consisting in people simply losing interest in some ideas, or gaining interest in other things, or simply wanting to do their own thing for a while. This might well turn out to be the better narrative. In other words, the history of philosophy is less like the history of combat or conquest in a single sport and more like the history of people becoming bored with one sport and wanting to play another.
The conflict thesis or the lack of interest thesis?
October 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm (Uncategorized)