A Brief History of the Concept of ‘Ways of Thinking’: Introduction and Plan of Work

New York: Palgrave McMillan (2023)
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The idea that in human history it is possible to recognize distinct ways of thinking is widespread in the literature. Sometimes, instead of the phrase ‘ways of thinking’, other labels are used, such as ‘forms of thought’, ‘modes of thinking’, ‘ways of knowing’, ‘ways of reasoning’, ‘mental attitudes’ or ‘worldviews’. At any rate, it is possible to say that there is a concept, that of ‘ways of thinking’, which has played a crucial role in philosophy at least since the Enlightenment and has acquired considerable weight with the emergence of a French tradition in philosophy of science called historical epistemology. This concept appears in different versions, as if they were species of the same genus. In this chapter, I shall outline its history, from Vico to Hacking and beyond, and I shall show how and why its different species have been introduced. My account provides a guiding thread running through philosophy of science that unifies the researches of important authors such as Lévy-Bruhl, Brunschvicg, Metzger, Koyré, Fleck, Foucault, Kuhn, Hacking and others. This guiding thread is mainly constituted by the project of historicizing Kant’s a priori by replacing it with a given notion of ‘ways of thinking’.

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Luca Sciortino
E Campus University


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