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Gadamer’s Logic of Question and Answer and the Difference Between the History of Philosophy and the History of Ideas

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The key difference between the history of ideas and the history of philosophy is that philosophers always consider their historical studies as potentially contributing to contemporary philosophical practice. Such presentism risks anachronistic readings of texts, but a too narrow focus on the historical context of the text risks limiting its ability to contribute to contemporary philosophizing. The current discussion of the history of philosophy focus entirely on how to understand, and what we can learn from, a philosopher’s claims and arguments. Hans-Georg Gadamer offers a different focus, arguing instead that it is the questions that the text answers that generate insights for contemporary philosophical practice. His focus on questions cuts across the standard ways of thinking about the relation between the history of philosophy and the history of ideas and provides novel answers to some central issues in the philosophy of history, for example how to best articulate a principle of charity.

Affiliations: 1: Grand Valley State University, Department of


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