Philosophers as Intellectual Historians

The philosopher, among many other things, is an intellectual historian.

  • What is an Intellectual Historian? An Intellectual Historian is someone who records, recalls, tracks, analyzes, and/or directly interacts with key agents/witnesses, primary and seconds sources of various intellectual value from the past, as well as objects of historical, social, or cultural significance.
  • To record, in this context, means to preserve for posteriority; recording is important because:
    • it allows for the continuation of traditions; without some kind of recorded intellectual memory, it is difficult to obtain knowledge of the past (or of past groups), especially its (their) rituals and cultural expressions
      • This can lead to such things as de-legitimacy, skepticism, distrust, exile, and even oblivion.
    • it also allows for a richer and more comprehensive analysis of any phenomenon or concept because one is able to analyze using the past and the present which ultimately provides more examples and more evidence to use
  • To recall signifies the process of recollecting what has passed or what has been; the goal of recalling something is to bring it to the forefront of one’s attention so that its features are as clearly illuminated as possible
    • To recall something is also important because it can help settle disputes or factual inaccuracies; it also has an accountability function built into it
  • To track means that the Intellectual Historian keeps a log of how a concept or argument has undergone change over time, either through slight or significant modification
    • An example would be the Cosmological Argument(s) for the Existence of God
      • As an Intellectual Historian, the Philosopher would need to know when/how/where/why there are different versions of the argument that argue for the same conclusion
  • To analyze is to try to discern or discover some kind of insight, truth, or observation that helps us to better understand the flow of history, the meaning of human existence, and a variety of other profoundly important topics
    • Just like a historian, the Philosopher as Intellectual Historian’s purpose is to study the passage and measurement of human time, how humans interact with historical forces, and what it all means to us
  • *NOTE*: any other direct interaction that may be significant is also part of the Intellectual Historian’s purview.
  • The Intellectual Historian has been, in various instances, responsible for:
    • Reminding us of an important insight that may have been buried in the closet of the past
    • Holding us accountable for previously committed errors and transgressions
    • Fact-checking our claims, assumptions, and arguments
    • Encouraging us to uphold rituals, traditions, and customs in their intended and preserved forms
    • Auditing concepts, analyses, and claims for genuine originality

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