Archeologies and Genealogies of Philosophy

As we began to approach the modern era, doing philosophy was a task of a vagabond and out-law. One had to cross boundaries and enter cross-roads as a thinker. Against this novelty seeking effort of the philosophers, came a book, Principles of Philosophy, that denounced philosophers who crossed borders and sought to put the house of philosophy in order by freeing it from extravagant errors of the then philosophers. The author of the book , proposed a philosophy which instead of being new was the most ancient and common to all. Thus, there was an effort to unify all philosophy of that time into a single frame that would render it to be universalizable. Such a project exposes an imperial historiography that was imposing itself on the diversity and creativity that is natural and had developed in philosophy at that time.

There emerged a habit of decrying the wayward voyages of the philosophers. We can see this stanch in the Paradise Lost of John Milton as well as the work of Bishop Berkley who took it on him to banish metaphysics and embrace commonsense. In his book, Principles of Knowledge, he said that the trouble with studying history of Philosophy is that we find ourselves coming back to where we are or, worse still, we end up in skepticism. He said that our plight is that we have first raised up the dust and then complain that we cannot see. Philosophy to him had to obey the ideal of commonsense. This meant that all humans cannot disagree as philosophy was universal. But history showed that it was not the case. Somehow philosophers had disobeyed the ideal of commonsense. History exhibits the myth of the ideal of commonsense.

History of philosophy has to be the index of philosophical errors. The idealism of elevating commonsense to lead to the production of universalizable philosophy is an error but was not easily discerned. But indexing of errors of the philosophers who came before the working philosophers became an important task of the modern philosophers who even categorized the medieval scholastic philosophy as mediocre. Perhaps, Aristotle’s category of substance influenced them to think that there was nothing substantive in the work of medieval philosophy who were even thought to be nothing more than footnotes to ancient Philosophers. This had led a complete dropping of the medieval philosophers from university syllabi as well as books of history of philosophy.

The complete disregard to the work of the masters of middle ages (even the name middle ages is already a disrespectful word) may have begun with the work of Johann Jacob Brucker. Bruker wrote a five-volume, History of Philosophy where he classified philosophy hitherto into three ages: ancient Romans, and up to Philosophia Christi, Scholasticism, Modern age , and Universal eclectic Philosophy. Modern Philosophy to him was a rediscovery of Plato and genuine Aristotle, in the fourteenth and fifteenth century which then led to the flowering of philosophy of electicsm as developed by Francis Bacon. All other philosophers before him , therefore, become anti-philosophers. Bacons book, Novum Organon became a the new logic of thinking against the deductive logic of Aristotle. We can see how the work of Bruker led to a neat classification of various schools of philosophy and we then saw them as sceptics, dogmatists, materialists, immaterialists, nominalists, realists, etc.

These classifications and categorizations were not innocent. They were colored and were motivated by the lens that saw as past philosophy as superstitious and religiously bigoted. Thus, we can see several histories exhibit different archeologies of Knowledge and genealogies of the who were considered philosophers and anti-philosophers. There are different episteme that shaped what is considered as philosophical knowledge. There were several discursive productions that produce the subject we call a philosopher. One important archeology is that medieval Philosophy does county as worthy of being philosophy. Moreover, medieval thinkers do not count as philosophers. Thus, idea of Philosophy and a Philosopher changed. Philosophy as tradition of a metaphysical systems became pointless. The modern philosophy came to see itself as exciting and democratic and set itself against the tyranny that had captured plain human good sense.

The philosophical wisdom that was then developed was only a response or reaction to what was seen as a philosophical error. It took upon itself an endless Sisyphean task of putting an end to metaphysics. David Hume thought that this continuous death of metaphysics could be achieved only through the practice of criticism. Immanuel Kant saw this continuous discord in Philosophy while identified complete agreement in Science and Mathematics. This is why he wanted philosophy to become like science or mathematics. Kant, thus, wanted to make the critical path as the high road of doing philosophy. Thus, in the work of Kant, criticism is the lens that enable the emergence of philosophy and philosophers. He wanted to make philosophy into a science. This positivist turn in philosophy will reach its fuller flowering in the work of Logical Positivist who will give a complete death blow to metaphysics. Kant also dreamed of an apriori history. Apriori history is one that looks at the future. We can shape the present with our eyes on the future. Thus, for Kant apriori history is possible. This apriori history will then be turned into a metaphysics of the self or the subject in the work of Hegel.

Our study in this direction has opened several (his)tories of Philosophy which are generated by several historiographies. Within this several (his)tories of Philosophy, we can trace several archelogies of Knowledge as well as several genealogies of a philosopher. It may be interesting as well as exciting to unearth this several archelogies as well as genealogies. To do this we have to understand the archeological and genealogical method of Michel Foucault. I keep this work for a future engagement. In this study I only try to indicate how the (his)tories of Philosophy are complexly generated by the various historiographies that are at work in the framing of what is deemed to be philosophical wisdom at given time and thus, produce archeologies of Knowledge that we deem as philosophy and genealogies that exhibit who is to be a philosopher.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao