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November 6, 2013



I'm not sure exploring philosophers' self-conceptions (if they were even actually "self"-conceptions) would best further my understanding of what philosophy is, nor for that matter my understanding of what the Philosopher as a persona or social actor is. The author sort of took for granted that philosophy was a dialectic, and a sort of weird quasi-productive one at that. Not saying that's wrong, it just seems like the answer to "What is philosophy?" could/should be (re)informed by the author's historical review-analysis of philosophers' self-conceptions.

Relatedly, doesn't the author's casting historical self-conceptions as essential or property-like reveal a bias for Cartesian (or maybe Leibnizian "singular things") logic, and thereby an emphasis on states (stasis) and essence over and against, e.g., (i) being/thinking/perception as a doing (ii) with (iii) the world?

And how does the author justify six categories/essences of philosophers' self-conceptions over history without relating any of them (in particular the historically oldest, like the Priest) to natural philosophy, which the author claims was identical until around Kant's time.

A revision to the focus of this proposed book might instead examine what natural philosophers "did"/how they "intervened"/made and changed and sustained "alliances", as opposed to "what" (Cartestian already!) philosophers conceived of themselves. That is, look at what "philosophers" do and what "scientists" do, and trace the histories of those activities to some (hypothesized) split, maybe or maybe not aligning with a change in philosophers' self-conceptions.

All this makes me think (natural) philosophy is performative magic -- both scientists and ("modern") philosophers emanate aura (authority) in authenticity (i.e. performing authentically). Maybe the identity between philosophers and scientists dissipated as the umbrella of objects (matter) attended to under natural philosophy expanded (as a nonlinear result of institutional, societal, cultural, climatic, etc. changes) so that natural philosophies concerning certain different domains of matter (objects) accrued different auras. That is, the aura of a natural philosopher discussing storms and tempests (just simply) differs from the aura of a natural philosoher discussing ethics and politics. Other factors perhaps have come into play so as to displace or discredit the aura accrued (derived) from one domian of matter (objects) -- the humanities -- in favor of a different aura accrued from a different domain of matter (objects) -- the (hard) sciences.


Most excellent, and I look forward to reading the book. For my part, I've been aiming to use that first description of philosophical work -- a dialectical method, that shows people what they thought they knew in a new light -- as one of the (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) tasks of ethnography. And indeed I am the freer to do so since I am not a professional academic philosopher, Gott sei dank. The next task (for me, though you're welcome too) is to show how effectively dialectical the writing of a good ethnographer can be, not only when s/he considers people's Weltanschauung, but also when s/he describes, say, their material culture. For a superb example, see Godfrey Lienhardt's *Divinity and Experience: the Religion of the Dinka*.

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