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Philosophy and Its HistoryAims and Methods in the Study of Early Modern Philosophy$
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Mogens Laerke, Justin E. H. Smith, and Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199857142

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199857142.001.0001

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The Contingency of Philosophical Problems

The Contingency of Philosophical Problems

(p.91) 5 The Contingency of Philosophical Problems
Philosophy and Its History

Joanne Waugh

Roger Ariew

Oxford University Press

This paper has two parts. The first focuses on two twentieth-century discussions about Descartes and Leibniz, discussions that reflect two of the central myths of philosophy: that the problems of philosophy are perennial, not contingent; and that we need not read philosophical texts in their historical contexts. Thus philosophers read philosophical texts from the past, locate “perennial problems,” formulate arguments for the texts’ authors in present day philosophical language, and evaluate these arguments in light of contemporary standards. The second part focuses on the substitution of philosophia perennis for the history of philosophy. Most twentieth century philosophers failed to distinguish the characteristics of formal languages from those of natural languages, and tended to treat texts and speech acts indiscriminately. But embodied speech acts are prior to texts and we should see a text as standing in for a speaker. This includes philosophical texts and the “problems” their authors share with their contemporaries.

Keywords:   Descartes, Leibniz, philosophia perennis, speech acts, perennial problems

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