Why Should We Study the History of Philosophy?

Metaphilosophy 37:34-52 (2006)
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Abstract
Assume for the sake of argument that doing philosophy is intrinsically valuable, where ‘doing philosophy’ refers to the practice of forging arguments for and against the truth of theses in the domains of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc. The practice of the history of philosophy is devoted instead to discovering arguments for and against the truth of ‘authorial’ propositions, i.e. propositions that state the belief of some historical figure about a philosophical proposition. I explore arguments to think that doing history of philosophy is valuable, specifically, valuable in such a way that its value does not reduce to the value of doing philosophy. Most such arguments proffered by historians of philosophy fail egregiously, as I show. I then offer a proposal about what makes doing history of philosophy uniquely valuable, but it is one that many historians will not find agreeable.
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