chapter  3
23 Pages

Theophilus Gale and Historiography of Philosophy


Philosophical canon formation depends, in part at least, on historiography of philosophy.1 Historians of philosophy consider such questions as which thinkers count as philosophers and which texts count as philosophical works, and they make judgements on the relative signifi cance of those thinkers and texts. One sense of ‘outsiderness’ concerns the position of a particular thinker in relation to the philosophical canon: whether that thinker is central to, marginal to or outside the canon. That numerous early modern philosophers have been subject to fl uctuating fortunes in this respect-Bacon, Hobbes and Spinoza are particularly obvious examplessuggests that the question of where a philosopher is situated in relation to the canon is open as much to historical as to philosophical analysis. Since there has never been a wholly fi xed, timeless philosophical canon, it becomes an interesting question, and one as much to do with history and historiography as with philosophy, why certain thinkers at one time are central to the canon, at other times not. Any inquiry into a particular philosopher’s place in the canon ought to include consideration of a whole range of ‘non-philosophical’ texts and topics-for example, biographies, philosophical dictionaries, the history of printing and the history of education-that concern the way that thinker’s philosophy has been presented (or ‘sold’) and received at different times and in different contexts. Just as historians need to be conscious of historiography, and literary scholars have increasingly moved to a historicist understanding of texts, so philosophers, in that they engage with past texts and thinkers, should also be sensitive to similar historiographical and historicist concerns. In particular, since histories of philosophy are an important part of canon formation, it is important also to understand philosophical historiography and the history of the history of philosophy.