In his essay “Philosophy within Quotation Marks,” reprinted in Method and Metaphysics: Essays in Ancient Philosophy I (Oxford: OUP, 2011), 23–42, Jonathan Barnes weighs in on a disputatio (his word) between Jacques Brunschwig and Pierre Aubenque about the legitimacy of a non-philosophical historian of philosophy. At the end of his essays, Barnes doesn’t draw a conclusion but offers four “glosses,” the first (p. 42) of which is:

First, though I am convinced that a good interpreter of philosophy will philosophize, I do not think that in this respect the history of philosophy is a special sort of discipline. On the contrary, everything I have said about the history of philosophy can be said, mutatis mutandi, about any other sort of interpretation whatsoever. Indeed, so far as I can see there are no interesting differences between the interpretation of ancient philosophy and the interpretation of ancient geometry—or the interpretation of yesterday’s Times. There are certain practical difficulties which confront interpreters of other stripes. But that does not show any essential difference between the interpretation of philosophical texts and the interpretation of non-philosophical texts. An historian of philosophy ought to philosophize because any interpreter ought to be ready to invoke material reasons in favour of his interpretations.

Since I am a historian of theology, I’m led to ask: do historians of theology have to theologize if only “to invoke material reasons in favor if his (or her!) interpretation?” Barnes would seem to say “yes,” but this doesn’t surprise me if one is working in the history of ideas. But what about studies of late antiquity outside of the history of ideas? Is theologizing excluded from this, or is it necessary constituent of it, at least in the sense that Barnes has articulated in his last sentence?

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s