What is critical history of philosophy?

Sandford, Stella (2024) What is critical history of philosophy? The Southern Journal of Philosophy, ISSN (print) 0038-4283 (Epub Ahead of Print)


In the past half-century critical historiographies of philosophy have challenged the exclusionist Eurocentric and masculinist presumptions of ‘history of philosophy’ and we have witnessed the multiplication of philosophical worlds in the relation of indigenous to Western scholarship and in critical, philosophical anthropologies. Does this mean that there is, or can be – no ‘unity’ to the history of philosophy? In this paper I argue that these challenges are not incompatible with our thinking the unity of the history of philosophy, so long as we understand it to be an historical ‘distributive unity’, constitutively related to other histories and to social, political, and institutional realities, and open to continuous transformation. The idea of a ‘critical history of philosophy’ emerges from this. I argue that a critical history of philosophy proceeds via the problematisations of contemporary thought, which are then themselves challenged by that critical history and that it can and must include what remains marginal to its canonical history, working in conjunction with the theory and practices of other disciplines. These general claims are illustrated in this paper by showing how a critical history of philosophy could proceed in practice in relation to the contemporary problematisation of the concept of ‘sex’.

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