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Philosophical exercise. Arthur Danto on Nietzsche

Sami Syrjämäki
p. 105-119

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1. Introduction

  • 1 Rorty would have done better if he had written about “presentism” instead of “rational reconstructi (...)

1It has become a commonplace that philosophy has a special connection to its history. This relation has been addressed in various ways, but I will concentrate on one line of conversation, which has concentrated on two methods of reading historical writings: rational and historical reconstructions. These two genres of the historiography of philosophy are often taken as a starting point, even if one goes on to question the confrontation between the two methods. The most influential single article propagating these terms (and perhaps the first to use the exact terminology) is by no doubt Richard Rorty’s seminal article The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres published in 1984. This is the article that one refers to when one feels obligated to say something about the methodology of one’s own interpretation of the past thinkers. Rorty’s article serves indeed as a good starting point. But it does have problems, and while Rorty makes some fine systematic distinctions, he misses the historical dimensions of the methods. And perhaps more importantly, he has actually very little to say about what kind of activity rational reconstruction is. He seems to be more interested in motivation why we should (or should not) do rational reconstructions of past thinkers1.

  • 2 By “historicist” I mean hear the variety of approaches to the history of philosophy, which maintain (...)
  • 3 Of the mentioned authors only Rorty uses the terminology exactly. Danto speaks of his method simply (...)

2In the following, I will first take a look on A.C. Danto’s book Nietzsche as Philosopher as a paradigmatic example of rational reconstruction. Then I will turn to V. Tejara’s criticism of the work, which I consider to present a paradigmatic example of the historicist2 criticism of rational reconstruction3. Then I shall examine the history of term “rational reconstruction” in its original context and how it shifted in discussions around historiography of philosophy. After that I will turn back to Danto and his book to describe their historical context(s). The last part is an interpretation of Danto’s work in these historical contexts, and I try to explicate Danto’s intentions in “Cambridge school” manner by answering question: what was Danto doing in this book. Finally I make some remarks on the historicist criticism. In other words, my aim is to give an interpretation of Danto, not of Nietzsche, and to cast some light to the notorious method of rational reconstruction by doing a “historical reconstruction” of the method.

2. Danto’s Nietzsche

  • 4 See Danto 1980: 9-10. This also what he restates in foreword of recently published expanded edition (...)

3Let’s first take a textualist approach to Danto’s work and just start reading the book. In the preface of the Morningside edition Danto explains the title of his book, Nietzsche As Philosopher, by referring to a conversation with a colleague of his, who had assured him that Nietzsche is not really a philosopher but a prosaist. The book is directed to oppose this opinion, and Danto goes on to declare that whatever else Nietzsche was, he certainly was a philosopher. Danto states his aim as a mission to introduce Nietzsche to analytic philosophy4.

4Danto tells us that there seems to be two characteristics in Nietzsche’s work that has caused his dismissal among Danto’s colleagues. According to him, the first reason why Nietzsche was not considered a philosopher (among his colleagues) can be found in the structure of Nietzsche’s works. To them Nietzsche was a bad architect. Nietzsche’s alleged fault was that he didn’t explicate his doctrines in a philosophically coherent and systematic manner. According to Danto Nietzsche’s doctrines are scattered around in a way that it does not really matter from which page one starts to read his books.

5In order to clarify his mission Danto examines the way Nietzsche is using language. Danto says that philosophical lexicon is much closer to ordinary speech than one might expect, and this causes problems when reader expects an ordinary language word in philosophical text to be used in the same meaning as it is normally used in everyday speech. Danto tells us that there is a second, though related, problem that reader has to deal with when reading Nietzsche: he is constantly shifting between philosophical and everyday meaning of the words (and according to Danto, usually Nietzsche is no more aware of his moves than his readers). This habit gives impression that Nietzsche is using concepts in an unconsistent way.

  • 5 Danto 1980: 13.

6These are the two problems that Danto seeks to overcome in order to give Nietzsche philosopher’s status. The object is thus to clarify Nietzsche’s “philosophical language” by showing how the changes in the meanings of the words are not random but coherently dependent in contexts they are used (to show the logical connections between his scattered doctrines) and to organize them into single “philosophically systematic” theory. By this move, Danto is translating Nietzsche’s philosophy into the systematic and analytic discourse where he thinks the real philosophy lives: had Nietzsche known what he was trying to say «his language would have been less colourful»5.

7Danto’s conception of philosophy plays major role. He characterizes the nature of philosophy by referring to two «distinct facts»:

  • 6 Danto 1984: 24. Later in an interview with Giovanna Borradori, Danto explicates what he means by ar (...)

The first is the systematic nature of philosophy itself. In the character of the philosophical discipline, there is no such thing as an isolated solution to an isolated problem. The problems of philosophy are so interconnected that the philosopher cannot solve or start to solve, one of them without implicitly committing himself to solutions for all the rest […] The fact remains however, that philosophy as such is architectonic […] [P]hilosophers are systematic through the nature of their enterprise6.

8and secondly:

  • 7 Danto 1984: 25.

We are apt to attribute to an author’s unconscious what is in fact in our own knowledge, which he could not have been conscious of because it has to do with the facts which lay not in the depths of his mind but in the future […] So the unifying forces of historical intelligence work together with the systemizing dynamics of philosophical thought to produce a coherent structure in a writer’s works (his literary style and methods of composition not withstanding), quite independently of whether he ever was able to express it as such, for himself or anyone else7.

  • 8 Danto 1984: 26.
  • 9 This is also how he sees Nietzsche to use his aphorisms: to support his hypothesis.
  • 10 Danto 1984: 229.
  • 11 Danto 1984: 230.

9Following these “rules” Danto starts to construct a systematic theory out of collection of aphorisms. He tells his readers that his interpretation is to be taken as any scientific theory «that is, an instrument for unifying and explaining a domain of phenomena»8. According to Danto his theory has even got predictive power as it tells us what Nietzsche was going to be saying. His hypothesis is that Nietzsche was rather a systematic thinker than some other more irrational or spontaneous sort of thinker, and that “nihilism” is the key concept that enables us to see this. He uses Nietzsche’s textual material the same way scientists employ observations, i.e. to support hypothesis9. After undressing Nietzsche’s philosophy from all the personal and colourful characteristics and reconstructing his philosophy to a coherent theory, Danto finally concludes that Nietzsche shares to a considerable extent modern analytic perspective and has earned his chair among the philosophers. At the end of his book he hopes that he has «not merely imposed [his] own will-to-system upon the galaxy of fragments and aphorisms»10. Of course there is some irony here, but it seems to be fair to say that Danto thinks that he has not violated Nietzsche’s philosophy in any serious way, that his interpretation is in accordance with basic ideas of Nietzsche’s philosophy or with Nietzsche’s «own concept of philosophical activity»11. From a historicist point of view this is of course a strange suggestion even though it might be true (if only by change and no thanks to Danto’s skills in historiography or the virtue of his method).

3. Historicist criticism against rational reconstruction

  • 12 Tejera 1989: 1.

10The basic historicist criticism against Danto is that he is being anti-historical in an essentially historical field. A paradigmatic case of historicist criticism is V. Tejara’s comment on Danto’s books in his (introductory) article On the nature of philosophic historiography. Tejara regards Danto’s anti-historicist attitude as a symptom of larger scale phenomenon of identifying history of philosophy with philosophy itself, which has caused this «denial of historicity of philosophic history as such»12. Most of all he is blaming philosophers who think of philosophy as applied logic.

  • 13 Tejeta 1989: 1.

11Tejera attacks Danto’s concept of philosophy and he denies the possibility that Danto could have grasped Nietzsche’s conception of philosophical activity. According to him, Danto’s conception of systematic philosophy is theoricist and assertive while Nietzsche’s philosophy is systematic «by reference to cultural practices he is criticizing and to the kind of expressiveness which Nietzsche laboured to achieve»13. Tejera argues that Danto should have done some philological or interpretative work on the notion of philosophy instead of showing total ignorance of the history of the concept. Tejera uses Danto as an example, but his real target is the tradition of “logical reconstruction”. He names three faults that logical reconstructionists necessarily commit:

  • 14 Tejera 1989: 3.

1. [Logical reconstruction] is incapable of articulating [historical] thought in its own terms.
2. [Logical reconstruction is incapable] of perceiving the special modes in which the thinker has developed his meanings when the mode of judgement is other than assertive.
3. [T]he ubiquitous interpretative problem of how to discount the historian’s own point of view as the criterion of the rationality of his subject’s activity and products, is not even present as a problem to the logicalist commentator14.

12In other words, the main accusation is that logical reconstructionists have set their interpretational frame in advance, and thus the method does not allow any dialectics between past thinkers and the modern interpreter. Tejera concludes that this missing of dialectics is the anti-historical element of logical reconstruction, and because of it logical reconstruction fails to be self-reflective (which for Tejera means to be unphilosophical).

13It is true that Danto’s interpretation probably offends all the historicist criteria of historical interpretation, and it may well be anachronistic in all the ways described by Quentin Skinner in his famous early article Meaning and understanding in the history of ideas (especially it is parochial regarding it’s conception of philosophy) that has become to be the article of historical reconstruction. From a historicist point of view, at first, it seems very tempting and unproblematic to accept the core of Tejera’s criticism. But we need to ask: does his interpretation live up to his own expectations? Has Tejera expressed Danto’s thought in his own terms? Has Tejera been able “to perceive special mode” in which Danto has developed his meanings? And is his reading of Danto “dialectic”? To answer these questions we have to first examine Danto’s interpretation in its historical context (a task that Tejera did not perform).

4. History of rational reconstruction as a method of reconstructing scientific theories

14In order to gain a better understanding of Danto’s work I will first take a look on the historical background of “rational reconstruction”. As I already mentioned, it is possible that Richard Rorty is the first one to use the term “historical reconstruction” with “rational reconstruction” when speaking of historiography of philosophy, but “rational reconstruction” itself does have a longer history. Before the term was shifted into this special discussion it was a common term used in the context of philosophy of science and metaphilosophy.

  • 15 At least according to G.H. von Wright. See his Logiika, filosofia ja kieli (1968). But I do not wis (...)

15If one is willing to abstract the meaning of the term enough, one will find something resembling already in the thought of Aristotle when he speaks about the ideal of axiomatic science, about how the scientific knowledge should be rearranged according to a certain ideal form. Perhaps little less abstracting is needed in Descartes’ aim in “translating” geometry into language of algebra, and the Leibniz’s idea of universal language comes perhaps one more step closer to the idea of rational reconstruction, when he speaks of universal language (characteristica universalis) and of it’s rules (calculus ratiocinator)15. But even though all this all fits in with Yagisawa’s definition of “rational reconstruction” in the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy:

  • 16 Yagisawa 1995: 676.

Rational reconstruction, also called logical reconstruction, translation of a discourse of a certain conceptual type into a discourse of another conceptual type with the aim of making it possible to say everything (or everything important) that is expressible in the former more clearly (or perspicaciously) in the latter16.

16It should be noted that historically speaking the term, as in the following will be explained, has got such attributes that it would have been impossible for those past figures to be really rational reconstructionists.

  • 17 This distinction stood up strongly for a while but later on it has been challenged. See e.g. Hoynin (...)
  • 18 Reichenbach 1947.
  • 19 See Reichenbach 1938 and 1947.

17As the most famous example of rational reconstruction Yagisawa mentions Rudolf Carnap’s attempt to translate discourse concerning physical objects into discourse concerning immediate objects of sense experience. Carnap’s idea that every meaningful sentence could be defined using concepts of immediate sense experience did not live for long but the idea of exact formal language surely survived later in analytic philosophy. Probably, the first philosopher to use the term “rational reconstruction” before Carnap was Hans Reichenbach. Reichenbach distinguishes context of discovery and contexts of justification. Context of discovery belongs to psychology and context of justification is the proper interest for philosophy of science17. According to Reichenbach a rational reconstruction of a scientific theory presents (or perhaps represents) a scientific theory, by using methods of formal logic, in a form that enables us to see (as clearly as possible) how the hypothesis is supported by evidence. In other words rational reconstruction «constitutes the basis of logical analysis»18 of a scientific theory in order to decide if the theory in question can be justified19.

  • 20 See e.g. Losee 1985: 174.

18Meaningful practise of rational reconstruction is thus based on the assumption that the new discourse expresses more clearly everything of importance of some expression in the first discourse. This kind of activity was central to the logical positivists and the post-war analytic philosophers following them. For instance the members of Vienna Circle considered that one of their essential tasks was to carry out rational reconstruction of scientific knowledge by restating the relations between hypothesis and empirical evidence in scientific theories (like Reichenbach suggested). In general logical positivists were interested in reformulating scientific theories in the patterns of formal logic, so that the problems of proper area of philosophy of science, namely explanation and confirmation, could be dealt with as problems of applied logic20.

  • 21 That is, the individual laws.
  • 22 Losee 1985: 174.

19An important feature of the reconstruction of scientific theories is the idea of hierarchy of scientific language. The bottom level terms form a semantically unproblematic language of observational data content that is independent of the upper theoretical level. At the bottom level there are statements like “the pointer x is on 5”. Next level statements assign values to scientific concepts like “temperature is 5 C°” and at the following level the (invariant) relations21 among scientific concepts are formulated. At the top level there are deductive systems (or “scientific theories”) in which laws are theorems. So, the top level theories get their meaning from the bottom level terms or are constructed from them by following the operational correspondence rules. John Losee has summarised the criteria for ideal scientific theory as follows22:

 

1. Each level is an “interpretation” of level below;

2. The predictive power of statements increases from base to apex;

3. The principal division within the language of science is between an “observational level” – the bottom of three level hierarchy – and a “theoretical level” – the top level of the hierarchy. The observational level contains statements about “observables” such as “pressure” and “temperature”; the theoretical level contains statements about “non-observables” such as “genes” and “quarks”;

4. Statements of the observable level provide a test-basis for statements of the theoretical level.

 

20Losee presents language levels as follows:

21I shall return to this structure later on but before that we need to take a look on how rational reconstructions became connected to historiography of philosophy.

5. History of rational reconstruction as a method of inquiry in historiography of philosophy

  • 23 In this sense, my interpretation of rational reconstruction is just a another among number of diffe (...)

22Before setting Danto’s book in its historical context I will take a quick look at the history of “rational reconstruction” as a method of history of philosophy. For Carnap the method of rational reconstruction was an instrument to overcome the “pseudoproblems in philosophy”. He applied it to topical issues of his time and was not interested in past thinkers (in effect he hardly mentions any previous philosopher in his work such as in Logical structure of the world). Richard Rorty’s article certainly made famous the distinction between rational and historical reconstruction in the historiography of philosophy, but at least, in the case of the concept of rational reconstruction, the history is longer. Considering the impact of Rorty’s article, it is somewhat confusing to notice that Rorty has actually very little to say about the methods he writes about. He says a lot about the motives why one wishes to do historical or rational reconstruction and almost nothing about how to actually use these methods. Of course this may just reflect the fact, that we have no common definition of the method of rational or historical reconstruction of history of philosophy23.

  • 24 Nowdays it has become a habit to call all anachronistic interpretations “rational reconstructions” (...)
  • 25 The conversation around rational reconstruction of the scientific progress was very lively at the 6 (...)
  • 26 Stegmüller 1977: 67.

23Rorty suggests that A.J. Ayer carries out rational reconstruction of history of philosophy in his Language, Truth and Logic (1936) but Ayer is not being explicit about it (Rorty mentions also Strawson’s and Bennett’s work from 1966 and 1971 and it would not have been a surprise if he had mentioned Russell’s A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz published in 1900.) The first rational reconstructionist of history of philosophy that uses the exact word to describe his work (and acknowledges the word’s uses in other concepts)24 is probably Wolfgang Stegmüller25. In his article Towards a rational reconstruction of Kant’s metaphysics of experience, published in two parts in 1967 and 1968, he states that «[t]he expression “rational reconstruction” is normally used within systematic contexts; but under appropriate circumstances it is applicable to the historical case as well» and goes on giving three principles which a rational reconstruction of a historically given philosophical system must fulfil26:

 

  1. The theory has to be presented in such a way that it remains in accordance with the basic ideas of the philosopher;

  2. As far as possible it has to be presented in precise terms;

  3. It is to be presented as a consistent theory, if possible (i.e. if not all rational accounts meeting requirements 1. and 2. turn out to be inconsistent).

 

  • 27 Stegmüller 1977: 70.
  • 28 Rorty 1984: 50.
  • 29 Skinner 1969: 28.

24The aim of the first principle is to prevent rational reconstructions to become arbitrary and calls for preliminary interpretation and presystematic insight. Second principle guarantees (for Stegmüller) that the reconstruction satisfies, not only our historical curiosity, but our philosophical mind as well. Third principle will serve as the final criteria to choose the most adequate when we are offered several rational reconstructions that are indistinguishable by other standards (for instance being in accordance with the intuitive content of original theory). Stegmüller insists that rational reconstruction is not intended to be justification for a philosophical theory (even though it may serve as one), the general value of rational reconstruction is that «the account given shall enable us to discuss the problem of the validity of the theory»27 i.e. it presents the original theory in such a form that it’s pros and cons can be pointed out more easily than in the original form. This is indeed in accordance with the idea of rational reconstruction of scientific theories and it certainly helps to understand the method better than Rorty’s (almost only) characterization of the practise of rational reconstruction as an opposite of historical reconstruction of which pursuit is to «obey a constraint formulated by Quentin Skinner»28. By this «constraint» Rorty refers to the (half of a) sentence in Skinner’s Meaning and understanding in the history of ideas: «[N]o agent can eventually be said to have meant or done something which he could never be brought to accept as a correct description of what he had meant or done» 29. Perhaps it is also worth noticing that Stegmüller wrote and published his piece on Kant before Skinner’s Meaning and understanding was published, so Rorty’s claim is a bit anachronistic. But even though Stegmüller’s characterization of rational reconstruction is more precise than Rorty’s he is basically just giving criteria of excellence of doing rational reconstruction and not concrete methodological instructions.

6. Danto’s interpretation in its historical context

25Let’s take a look back at Danto’s book, but this time we will widen our horizon outside the text and see how this might effect to our understanding of the text.

  • 30 Danto 2005a.
  • 31 Quotation taken from Danto 2005a.
  • 32 Danto 2005a: 18.

26In an essay, published only in Italy30, Danto takes a look back at the 60’s when he wrote his book Nietzsche as Philosopher. To pay attention to past thinkers was a fairly new phenomenon in analytic philosophy at the time, though it had begun in the 50’s. Analytic philosophers may have just turned to history but they wanted to stand out – or at least – differ from historians. It was emphasized that philosophers task, when looking at his or her predecessors, differs from the job of historian of ideas. As Danto reminds us, «the main qualification for writing on a past philosopher was that one had established credibility as a contemporary philosopher». Paul Edward, who was editor of Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy had another project, that was later published as Critical History of Western Philosophy, invited Danto to write a piece on Nietzsche for the Critical History. D.J. O’Conner, editor of this book, invited writers to contribute this new book in order to «explain the principle philosophical concepts and theories in the order in which they were developed; and to evaluate and criticize them in the light of contemporary knowledge and to bring out whatever may be in them that is of permanent philosophical interest»31. And Danto himself puts it even more clearly: «the main task was to scrub their writings clean of historical excrescence, and to present them very much as if they might be candidates for tenure in a good respectable philosophy department in a Midwest university»32. This is how Danto later on describes the starting point of his work. However, it turned out, that Danto’s essay on Nietzsche should be shortened in half but if he wanted to enlarge it to a book, he would get a contract. And so he wrote Nietzsche as Philosopher from the basis of an essay that was first meant to be published in a collection of essays.

  • 33 Nowdays he probably calls himself rather a post-analytic philosopher. See his intereview in «Radica (...)
  • 34 Danto 1980: 13.
  • 35 It is perhaps self-evident that it was only in Danto’s context (analytic philosophy on both sides o (...)

27Danto’s own starting point is in the department of philosophy of Colombia University. It is not groundbreaking news that Danto is or was an analytic philosopher33, and that the polemics or irony of the title of his book comes understandable only in the context of American philosophy of 60’s and 50’s. As I already mentioned the name of the book refers to a conversation with Danto’s colleague, who didn’t consider Nietzsche much of a philosopher. However the irony is not directed to analytic philosophers who had not paid any attention to Nietzsche, but to those philosophers who had spent their lives with Nietzsche and interpreting him as some sort of non-analytic philosopher. The name bravely declares that nobody before the author of the new book had examined Nietzsche as a genuine philosopher, especially not the «poets, politicians, potheads, and photographers from Princeton»34 who had not training in analytical philosophy35.

  • 36 In an interview with «Radical Philosophy» he describes the department as «heavily historical». Dant (...)
  • 37 His first rendezvous with analytic philosophy happened however during his short stay in University (...)
  • 38 Danto also recalls welcoming the metaphysics back at the time when the verification principle was f (...)
  • 39 See Danto 2005a: 20.
  • 40 We are told by Giovanna Borradori that Danto is in disagreement with so called «“idealistic program (...)

28Danto studied in Columbia University and the department of philosophy was according to his own words «a very pragmatist department»36. However pragmatism was not the only strong philosophical movement present in America at the time. One of Danto’s teachers was Ernest Nagel, and he acquainted young Danto with logical positivism37. Even though Danto did not identify himself as logical positivist, he describes the 50’s as golden age when everybody were interested in sciences, in mathematics, in logic and metaphysics were overthrown38. So, most certainly Danto was interested in the philosophy of science at the time, and in 1960 he co-edited a reader in philosophy of science (which included a preface by Nagel). It is also quite revealing that the only person Danto mentions to have discussed the book with at the time of writing, was a logician and a philosopher of science: Arnold Koslow39. It seems to be quite evident that Danto was aware of the logical positivist’s program of rational reconstruction40.

29After this quick glance on the philosophical background of Danto, we may safely take a look on the book in light of the history of the method of rational reconstruction.

30Now we are able to see that Danto’s principles of interpretation are in accordance with the ideas of rational reconstructionists of scientific theories and with Stegmüllers principles concerning rational reconstruction of history of philosophy. It is evident that Danto studies Nietzsche’s philosophy as basically hypothetico-deductive theory that needs only some clarification to be noticed as such. Thus his reconstruction of Nietzsche’s philosophy is to be understood as hyphotetico-deductive theory that provides the clarification and brings the underlying systematic structure to the surface, so that Nietzsche’s philosophy can be evaluated as «philosophically coherent and systematic theory» (i.e. hypothetico-deductive theory). Secondly it is important to remember how Danto is using Nietzsche’s aphorisms the same way scientist use observations to support their hypothesis. His theory of “Nietzsche as philosoher” is built up like ideal scientific theories according to the logical positivists: on the observational level there are aphorisms and on the theoretical level there is the Nietzsche’s presumed system. They are connected to each other through operational correspondence rules like «philosophy is systematic through its nature» (i.e. yields a hypothetico-deductive theory) and «the life of philosopher forms coherent unity» (i.e. his works form a coherent structure). These rules give Danto also an opportunity to test his theory with the aphorisms of “observational level”. The theory can also be reduced to the aphorisms by using the same rules. By the predictive power of the theory Danto means that the theory is able to predict how Nietzsche would have built his theory if he had been able to express himself more clearly. Picture 2 presents the structure of Danto’s reconstruction of Nietzsche’s philosophy. If you compare pictures 1 and 2 you will notice beautiful correspondence between them:

  • 41 It could be argued that Danto’s essential concept of philosophy is dubious but on the same grounds (...)
  • 42 Danto indeed describes his book to be based more on reading than on research. See Danto 2005a: 22.
  • 43 Danto 2005a: 22.
  • 44 Danto 2005a: 21. This of course applies to readers of philosophy within the branch of analytic phil (...)

31If Danto’s interpretation offers no interesting information to a historian, it is not due to a failure. It is obvious that Danto is not trying to uncover the historical meaning of Nietzsche’s work (at least in the sense Tejera is criticizing him failing in). He is exercising philosophy as it was understood in the tradition of logical positivists and (partly) in the later analytic tradition: he is clarifying a theory. In this case, the act of philosophizing is directed towards a historical phenomenon but the interest is not historical41. The aim of his reading42 of Nietzsche was to provide an interpretation of his work that would make Nietzsche a philosopher worth reading for analytic philosophers: to make him «one of us»43 and in this he was successful. As he himself has put it: «my book made it possible for those who read philosophy also to read Nietzsche without guilt»44.

32The fact that philosophers who write about past thinkers do not always share the same intentions that historians do is a point that is sometimes forgotten in the historicist criticism of Danto and in the rational reconstruction in general. And I think that it is a crucial mistake for a historicist, like Tejara, not to pay attention to the intentions of given author. It doesn’t matter that Tejera is not commenting on a past thinker, or that the book was written only 14 years before Tejera’s criticism was published. The same interpretational principles apply to any strange culture, not only those that have become history. As Tejara calls for historicity of history of philosophy and denies historicity of historiography of philosophy by his essential conception of the field, his criticism seems to be more of a moral sort and only disguised in epistemological form.

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Bibliografia

Ayer, A.J.

– 1956, Language, Truth and Logic, London, The Camelot Press Borradori, G.

– 2003, The American Philosopher. Conversations with Quine, Davidson, Putnam, Nozick, Danto, Rorty, Cavell, MacIntyre, and Kuhn, transl. R. Crocitto, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press

Carnap, R.

– 1967, The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudo Problems in Philosophy, transl. by R.A. George, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul

Danto, A.C.

– 1980, Nietzsche as Philosopher, Morningside-edition, Cambridge, Columbia University Press

– 1994, A conversation with Arthur Danto, an interview with student journal, http://www-9.cc.columbia.edu/cu/conference/conf71danto.html

– 1998, Art and analysis, interview in “Radical Philosophy”, 90

– 2005a, On writing nietzsche as philosopher, “Rivista di estetica”, 28

– 2005b, Nietzsche as Philosopher. Expanded edition, New York, Columbia University Press Hoyningen-Huene, P.

– 1987, Context of discovery and context of justification, “Studies in History and Philosophy of Science”, 18: 501-515

Losee, J.

– 1980, A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Reichenbach, H.

– 1938, Experience and Prediction, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.

– 1947, Elements of symbolic logic, http://radicalacademy.com/adiphiloessay52.htm, checked 25/07/2006

Rorty, R.

– 1984, The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres, in R. Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Q. Skinner (eds.), Philosophy in History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Russell, B.

– 1989, Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, Wakefield, Longwood Academic Skinner, Q.

– 1988, Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas, in J. Tully (ed.), Meaning & context, Princeton, Princeton University Press: 29-67

Stegmüller, W.

– 1977, Towards a Rational Reconstruction of Kant’s Metaphysics of Experience, in W. Stegtmüller, Collected Papers, Dordrecht, Reidel

Tejera, V.

– 1989, Introduction: On the nature of philosophic historiography, in T.Z. Lavine and V. Tejera (eds.), History and anti-history in philosophy, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers: 1-18

Wright, G.H. von

– 1968, Logiikka, filosofia ja kieli, transl. by T. Nyberg, Helsinki, Otava Yagisava, T.

– 1995, Rational Reconstruction, in R. Audi (ed.), The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 676

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Note

1 Rorty would have done better if he had written about “presentism” instead of “rational reconstruction”. Presentism is a better label for all the approaches that frame the history consciously into modern perspective. Rational reconstruction has more specific traditional meaning.

2 By “historicist” I mean hear the variety of approaches to the history of philosophy, which maintain that the past thinkers should be seen from their own point of view in their particular historical context.

3 Of the mentioned authors only Rorty uses the terminology exactly. Danto speaks of his method simply by the name of “reconstruction” and Tejera speaks of “logical reconstruction”. I think that the historical examination of the concept of “rational reconstruction” allows me to treat them as synonymous without serious problems.

4 See Danto 1980: 9-10. This also what he restates in foreword of recently published expanded edition: one of his aims was «to demonstrate that Nietzsche was really was a philosopher […] he is as much a philosopher in the received sense by which we admire the leading figures in the major departments which the discipline it taught to aspiring professionals» and goes on to state that «my bookNietzsche philosophical credibility, admittedly in a far narrower philosophical culture than he would have recognized, that of professional philosophers in a discipline that had become technical and logical, as it had in the Anglo-American academic world, whose philosophy departments it dominated. The book introduced him as a new colleague to my admired peers». Danto 2005b: xv-xvi.

5 Danto 1980: 13.

6 Danto 1984: 24. Later in an interview with Giovanna Borradori, Danto explicates what he means by architecture of thought: «I like things to be clear, I like connections to be clear, and I like to see structures […] if you take sufficiently distant view of that, you can see that the lack of structure is one of the great historic alternatives to clarity». This may have a kind of holistic sound, but later on the same interview Danto insists that he is foundationalist in a very «Cartesian sense»: «I like the idea of being able to break things down and put them back together to observe how the different elements interconnect and function». See Borradori 2003: 90-91, 97.

7 Danto 1984: 25.

8 Danto 1984: 26.

9 This is also how he sees Nietzsche to use his aphorisms: to support his hypothesis.

10 Danto 1984: 229.

11 Danto 1984: 230.

12 Tejera 1989: 1.

13 Tejeta 1989: 1.

14 Tejera 1989: 3.

15 At least according to G.H. von Wright. See his Logiika, filosofia ja kieli (1968). But I do not wish to emphasize the point that if we work on very high level of abstraction we may find “rational reconstructions” nearly everywhere in the history of philosophy. In effect I wish to suggest that we should not do that, and instead, we should be more specific if we try trace history of rational reconstruction that is relevant for the history of rational reconstruction in historiography of philosophy.

16 Yagisawa 1995: 676.

17 This distinction stood up strongly for a while but later on it has been challenged. See e.g. Hoyningen-Huene 1987.

18 Reichenbach 1947.

19 See Reichenbach 1938 and 1947.

20 See e.g. Losee 1985: 174.

21 That is, the individual laws.

22 Losee 1985: 174.

23 In this sense, my interpretation of rational reconstruction is just a another among number of different conceptions of the method (and especially so because I’m using only one example). But I do hope that my interpretation adds something our general understanding of the genres of historiography.

24 Nowdays it has become a habit to call all anachronistic interpretations “rational reconstructions” without any reference to the uses of the word in previous (systematic) contexts.

25 The conversation around rational reconstruction of the scientific progress was very lively at the 60’s.

26 Stegmüller 1977: 67.

27 Stegmüller 1977: 70.

28 Rorty 1984: 50.

29 Skinner 1969: 28.

30 Danto 2005a.

31 Quotation taken from Danto 2005a.

32 Danto 2005a: 18.

33 Nowdays he probably calls himself rather a post-analytic philosopher. See his intereview in «Radical Philosophy» 90, 1998.

34 Danto 1980: 13.

35 It is perhaps self-evident that it was only in Danto’s context (analytic philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic Sea) that Nietzsche was not considered a philosopher of great interest. At the time e.g. in France he was of course one of the figures, among three great H’s and Marx, that philosophers had to comment.

36 In an interview with «Radical Philosophy» he describes the department as «heavily historical». Danto 1998: 34.

37 His first rendezvous with analytic philosophy happened however during his short stay in University of Colorado.

38 Danto also recalls welcoming the metaphysics back at the time when the verification principle was fading. Danto 1998: 35.

39 See Danto 2005a: 20.

40 We are told by Giovanna Borradori that Danto is in disagreement with so called «“idealistic programs” [of analytic philosophy] that are engaged in the compilation of an ideal language capable of embracing, as best it can, the formulation of scientific theories» (see Borradori 2003: 87). But it certainly looks like he was not so much in disagreement with the program at the time he wrote Nietzsche as philosopher and he does admit his devotion to architecture of philosophy; «I like things to be clear, I like connections to be clear and I like to see structures» (Borradori 2003: 90).

41 It could be argued that Danto’s essential concept of philosophy is dubious but on the same grounds it could be argued that so is Tejera’s essential concept of history of philosophy, indeed, it is very much a «denial of historicity historiography of philosophy»!

42 Danto indeed describes his book to be based more on reading than on research. See Danto 2005a: 22.

43 Danto 2005a: 22.

44 Danto 2005a: 21. This of course applies to readers of philosophy within the branch of analytic philosophers that Danto himself represents. In continental Europe Nietzsche was the philosopher that every trainee in philosophy had to get acquainted with.

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Sami Syrjämäki, «Philosophical exercise. Arthur Danto on Nietzsche»Rivista di estetica, 40 | 2009, 105-119.

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Sami Syrjämäki, «Philosophical exercise. Arthur Danto on Nietzsche»Rivista di estetica [Online], 40 | 2009, online dal 30 novembre 2015, consultato il 23 juin 2024. URL: http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/estetica/1895; DOI: https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/estetica.1895

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