"Hume Variations" by Jerry A. Fodor [Book Review]

The Times Literary Supplement 1 (2004)
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Contemporary philosophy has had a difficult relationship with its own history. One extreme view conceives of the task of philosophy purely in terms of solving certain given problems, and considers the history of philosophy to have no more relevance to this project than the history of physics has to physics itself. Certainly the history of philosophy is an important intellectual discipline, they argue, but just as physicists do not need to read Newton’s Principia in order to make progress, philosophers do not need to read Aristotle or Kant. At the other extreme are the sceptics who believe that creative philosophy is, for some reason or another it is no longer possible, and that all that can be done is to provide ‘readings’ of the great thinkers of the past. As the late Burton Dreben is supposed to have remarked: ‘junk is junk, but the history of junk is scholarship’.



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