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The Philosophical Significance of Biography

Extract

In trying to estimate the work of a particular philosopher it seems natural enough to begin with a description of the history and circumstances of the man himself. And yet it is almost invariably the case that most, if not all, of these biographical items are gradually lost sight of as the main business of interpreting and criticizing advances. We include our knowledge of the man in an introductory chapter, and rarely, if ever, refer to it. As a result, the philosopher and his work seem to be things apart. The work becomes a contribution to philosophy, distinguished, in a personal sense, from other contributions by little more than the convenient symbol of its author's name.

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1 It is not intended, as its correspondence with the moral postulate of freedom would seem to imply, that Creativism must necessarily be regarded as an “ethical” standpoint. Ethics, as such, must make obligation, i.e. the duty of finite agents to obey something other than themselves, at least as fundamental a principle of the moral life as freedom. When, however, freedom is abstracted from obligation in the sense just denned, and is considered, as creativism considers it, as supremely typical of life and existence, it ceases to be “ethical.”

1 Whether or not it can be taken as “proof” of the Absolutist standpoint, it is at least significant that the generalizations of the historical or inductive school on, say, moral and political matters are roughly coincident with actual or possible deductions from the theories of philosophers, who, from circumstantial or other reasons, were quite devoid of the historical sense in its modern meaning. “Roughly coincident,” be it noted, because of the limitations of a human knowledge of theory and of history.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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