On the first page of Karl Ameriks book, Kant and the Fate of Autonomy, he cite Rottgers:
How it could happen that a whole epoch of philosophers, from Reinhold to Hegel, was of the opinion that philosophy must be deduced from a single proposition—this has remained unclear to me, and I have as yet found no answer for it in the literature.
An interesting question, but this post is not about Ameriks observation. It’s nearing the end of the semester and it’s about that time in which I’ll pose a series of annoying questions to my students: What is philosophy? What should philosophy concern itself with? How should one philosophize? etc. to tie up the course. Since I’m teaching the first of the three essays in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, I was thinking this morning about his insistence that the good–in the good/evil binary–can only emerge at the expense (or exclusion) of its opposite, whose quality is conceptually prior to, and wholly independent of the “good.” From the get go, hasn’t philosophy been defined by that which it excludes? In Nietzsche’s sense above, philosophy only arrives at its definition through the refusal of its opposite, but moreover, it ends up giving priority to that which it refuses. In this sense, philosophy is essentially an afterthought. Along the lines of Nietzsche’s analysis of morality, the “business” and the origins of philosophy, I was reminded of the opening lines of Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption:
From death, it is from the fear of death that all cognition of the All begins. Philosophy has the audacity to cast off the fear of the earthly, to remove from death its poisonous sting, from Hades his pestilential breath.
I’m not going to rehash the whole of Rosenzweig’s introduction to the Star, but he reads the history of philosophy, from Socrates to Nietzsche (though Nietzsche is able to take a step in the right direction), as a type of suicide. As Rosenzweig sees it, Plato chose to avoid facing fear of death by refusing the materiality of life by positing an Ideal reality. Such other-worldliness –suggests Rosenzweig–permeates the whole of philosophy. Philosophy seems to always be in some sort of “crisis” or is always seeking to (re)define itself (I can’t help but think of Mikhail’s assessment of the history of philosophy morphing into the history of enemies here). This makes perfect sense given the above. However, until it stops defining itself through what it refuses, we’ll never have arrived at a satisfactory definition of philosophy, how to philosophize and what philosophy should concern itself with. It’s like the snake that eats itself. Or maybe I’m just being cranky.