An alternative to the standard cookie-cutter history of philosophy, this blog presents the subject as a “way of thinking” that investigates the “Big Names” as character studies and intellectual portraits rather than a freeze-dried version that retains merely the propositional content of their writings.
This way of thinking shows the interaction between the individual thinker and his social/cultural milieu that produces a certain philosophical temperament, which results in a particular philosophy.
Given this demonstration, there are as many ways of doing philosophy as there are philosophers, because the potential convergences between individual personalities and the culture is infinite.
E.g., Plato grew up during the Peloponnesian War, which meant he did not experience a world free from the fervor of warfare. That resulted in a rebellious distance from empirical reality and an idealistic bent to withdraw from the given. Plato became an adult during a charged time of cultures and empires, a growing cosmopolitan that stretched vision beyond the tribe and expanded awareness of the world as a cutthroat marketplace of gods and customs and opinions. This challenging perspective influenced the content and temperament of Plato’s philosophy. That is why he sought to transcend the transient chaos of appearances to locate secure foundations in the single and good unity of being.
E.g., Aristotle‘s philosophy reflects his pupil Alexander’s empire in which his logical and empirical investigations were made up of Alexander’s ambitious campaigns, resulting in an empire of knowledge. Just like Alexander’s limitless greed to conquer the world, Aristotle’s temperament was an stubborn asceticism with dogged practice that constantly applied logical and moral abilities. Where the growing cosmopolitan or imperialism and warfare created a rationalistic aloofness in Plato, in Aristotle the same factors resulted in a rapacious empiricism that joyfully engaged with the world.
E.g., Nietzsche‘s temperament and method is related to the secular growth in education in the modern world, in which one of the chief characteristics of modernity is the impossibility of a complete education. Classical education was about inculcating the student in a mature conformity to a finished work. But in modernity, the world has crumbled due to dynamization, there can no longer be any finished world for the student to conform. Nietzsche, in rebellion against this situation, came up with an aesthetic weltanschauung that could function as a program for human elevation in the post-classical age, helping emphasize self-realization in the place of self-understanding. In order to pull this off, Nietzsche had to transvalue the texts and values of the educational system. This called for a temperament, a parodic genius that gleefully destroyed all traditional genres of discourse.
The endless cultural and personal and material factors in each thinker’s particular situation, as well as the temperament and philosophical systems under question, leads to the obvious inference: any relationship between the two is possible.