A defense of reconstructivism

Hungarian Review of Philosophy 65 (1):51-68 (2022)
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The immediate occasion for this special issue was Christia Mercer’s influential paper “The Contextualist Revolution in Early Modern Philosophy”. In her paper, Mercer clearly demarcates two methodologies of the history of early modern philosophy. She argues that there has been a silent contextualist revolution in the past decades, and the reconstructivist methodology has been abandoned. One can easily get the impression that ‘reconstructivist’ has become a pejorative label that everyone outright rejects. Mercer’s examples of reconstructivist historians of philosophy are deceased (P. F. Strawson, Margaret J. Osler, Richard Watson, and Bernard Williams), anonymous (the fans of philosopher* mentioned by Lisa Downing), or authors whose more recent work followed a contextualist methodology (Jonathan Bennett). The reconstructivist camp seems to have turned into a shadowy group, largely extinct by now, not unlike the Death Eaters in the fictional universe of Harry Potter. There are some figures who previously belonged to this group, but they have since reformed their ways – or so it seems. Sometimes it is rumoured that certain people may still have secret allegiance to it, but no one dares to fly its banner openly. We decided to create this special issue because we believe that reconstructivist methodology does not deserve this shadowy existence.

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Oliver Toth
University of Graz


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