System and History in Philosophy

On the Unity of Thought & Time, Text & Explanation, Solitude & Dialogue, Rhetoric & Truth in the Practice of Philosophy and its History

By Adriaan Theodoor Peperzak

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887062759, 172 pages, July 1986
Hardcover : 9780887062735, 172 pages, July 1986

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Table of contents



Chapter I. Is Thematic Philosophy Still Possible?

1. The present-day situation of philosophy

2. Think on your own!

2. 1 What does this incentive mean?

2. 2 Is this a good incentive?

Chapter II. Philosophy is Learning

1. Pupil, teacher, text

2. Learning

3. Discussion with existing philosophies

4. "Classical" and "contemporary"

5. To which philosophers must I turn?

6. Consequences for a history of philosophy

6. 1 Why "the history of philosophy" cannot be written

6. 2 Every history of philosophy is an expression of a thematic philosophy

6. 3 The necessity for a certain "positivism" in the history of philosophy

6. 4 Specific problems of the history of philosophy

6. 4.1 Individual philosophers

— The work

— A text

— An oeuvre

— Work and life

6. 4.2 Milieu and time

6. 4.3 Philosophical constellations

a. The unity of an oeuvre

b. The unity of a period

c. The unity of a history

6. 5 Dogmatism and hermeneutics

Chapter III. Philosophy as Discussion

1. Philosophy as dialogue

2. Conversations in search of truth

2. 1 Speaking

A parenthetical remark

2. 2 Dialogue

2. 3 Topics of conversation

2. 4 Conversation, combat, violence (or:dialogue and rhetoric)

2. 4.1 Speaking as fighting

2. 4.2 Rhetoric

2. 4.3 Polemic

2. 4.4 An ethics of violence

2. 4.5 Conditions for a good polemic

2. 4.6 Universal polemics?

2. 4.7 Democratic deliberation

2. 4.8 Polemics and rhetoric

2. 5 The time structure of conversation

3. Is philosophy a conversation?

3. 1 Thematic philosophy and conversation

3. 2 Thematic philosophy and the history of philosophy

3. 3 The abolition of the individual subject

3. 4 Conversation and text

3. 5 Unmaskings

3. 6 Thematic philosophy and rhetoric

3. 7 The individual and the powers

4. The history of philosophy as conversation

4. 1 Text and author

4. 2 Interpretation,

4. 3 An ethics of interpretation,

4. 4 Anonymous thought,

4. 5 History of philosophy as a triumph,

4. 6 The history of philosophy as discussion,

4. 7 Teamwork in philosophy?

4. 8 Historiography as a presentation of others,

4. 9 Theatrum philosophicum ,

4. 10 Scepticism and time,

4. 11 Solitude and hope,

Chapter IV. Philosophy and Truth


Selected Bibliography

Index of Proper Names

Subject Index


The book begins with the problem of the relationship between systematic philosophy and the history of philosophy. Why does philosophy attach so much importance to history? Consideration of this question is an essential part of metaphysics, and it has important consequences for the methodology of both history and philosophy.

An analysis of the problem that begins the book leads to many other fundamental questions concerning the nature of philosophy. In treating these issues the author discusses positions taken on them by Russell, Rorty, Heidegger, Gadamer, Levinas, Ricoeur, Derrida, and others of our century. He also draws inspiration from Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche.

Adriaan Theodoor Peperzak is Full Professor and Chair of Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Ethics in the Philosophy Department of the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.