Scholarly article on topic 'Questioning and Signifying. The Destruction of the Traditional Historiography of Philosophy on the Level of Historical Comprehension'

Questioning and Signifying. The Destruction of the Traditional Historiography of Philosophy on the Level of Historical Comprehension Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{"History of philosophy" / tradition / "hermeneutical distance" / "existential comprehension" / "historical truth" / destruction / reader}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Dorin Ştefănescu

Abstract The relation between history and the history of philosophy implies to constitute a signifying universe that exceeds its own historical causality, an aspect which represents a destruction of history, either regarding the comprehension of the absolute system, or that of the absolute singularity. It is precisely this complex of a scholastic historical tradition that must be destroyed in order to avoid the captivity of the history of philosophy in a situation without issue. This is because of the fact that no significant answer corresponds to a proposal of a universal meaning of the question. If the level of historicity founds historiography from an existential point of view, beyond its structural dimension, it makes the philosophical works of the past able to respond to the questions of the present, according to their eventful essence. The fusion of history and philosophical questions regards the great hermeneutical task of the comprehension proper to the history of philosophy: the possibility of questioning and that of signifying.

Academic research paper on topic "Questioning and Signifying. The Destruction of the Traditional Historiography of Philosophy on the Level of Historical Comprehension"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 71 (2013) 61 - 69

International Workshop on the Historiography of Philosophy: Representations and Cultural

Constructions 2012

Questioning and signifying. The destruction of the traditional historiography of philosophy on the level of historical


Dorin §tefanescu*

"Petru Maior" University of Targu-Mure§, Nicolae lorga 1, Targu-Mure§, 540080, Romania


The relation between history and the history of philosophy implies to constitute a signifying universe that exceeds its own historical causality, an aspect which represents a destruction of history, either regarding the comprehension of the absolute system, or that of the absolute singularity. It is precisely this complex of a scholastic historical tradition that must be destroyed in order to avoid the captivity of the history of philosophy in a situation without issue. This is because of the fact that no significant answer corresponds to a proposal of a universal meaning of the question. If the level of historicity founds historiography from an existential point of view, beyond its structural dimension, it makes the philosophical works of the past able to respond to the questions of the present, according to their eventful essence. The fusion of history and philosophical questions regards the great hermeneutical task of the comprehension proper to the history of philosophy: the possibility of questioning and that of signifying.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Claudiu Mesaros (West University of Timisoara, Romania). Keywords: History of philosophy; tradition; hermeneutical distance; existential comprehension; historical truth; destruction; reader.

1. Introduction

If there is no philosophy but rational thinking, the history of philosophy would be "a history of the pure reason" (Kant) or the history of the pure effort of understanding. Therefore, on one hand, being a part of the global spiritual life, philosophy contributes to the effort of ordering the values according to a certain hierarchy.

* Tel.: 0265771818; fax: 0265236034. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Claudiu Mesaros (West University of Timisoara, Romania). doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.009

On the other hand, "it is neither the philosophy in general, on the whole of its development, nor the psychological evolution of every philosopher in particular that forms the immediate object of the history of philosophy, but the doctrines conceived by philosophers" [1]. It is an aspect that implies, first of all, a historical observation of the facts. The historian is never in front of his past object of study, but in front of a presence's trace he cannot restore but only question within the proper significance of its historicity. Secondly, he must analyze - try to explain a thought of the past - and this explanation is a philosophical one. To explain philosophy through philosophy does not mean to restore things, but to compose and constitute a retrospective train. "There are thus straight relations of assistance and kinship between the history of philosophy and philosophy itself. And one could estimate without doubt that, even for the philosophical research, the history of philosophy is a precious and even indispensable auxiliary" [2]. Consequently, "the most truthful historical conception is necessarily, at the same time with a philosophical research" [3]. It requires the understanding of the history of philosophy as a philosophical problem: that means, on one hand, that the philosophical object does not exist other than historicizing itself, not going to the historical fact, but trying to show its constitution [4]; on the other hand, it means to do the history of lasting problems, problems creating their own duration.

The problem presented briefly above will be developed according to three main dimensions, as many as the difficulties that may cause an attempt on the status of the history of philosophy as an independent discipline, and finally, in a concluding section, we shall try to offer a possible way to avoid these aporetic stages.

2. The unstable status of the history of philosophy balancing between its philosophical and historical tasks

One of the main obstacles which must be overcome is the temptation of coincidence and of restoration, the vane ambition to identify oneself with the hidden intention of the philosophers, "to let oneself being penetrated more and more by foe author's thought", "to replace oneself in his point of view" [1]. If "to follow and to reproduce through one's intelligence the philosopher's intelligence such as it was logically and organically reflected in his doctrine, that is no doubt what one must do;" however it is not enough to restore a philosophical doctrine, fact that would mean - as Delbos says - "the study of an exterior assimilation and of a passive receptivity" [2]. Therefore one must "try to keep oneself in the limits of the philosopher's thought that built the doctrine", "one must keep from the temptation to reconstruct the system under the pretence of understanding it better" [2]. This aspect involves a reflection on the comprehension in the history of philosophy, comprehension directed neither towards the subjectivity of the authors nor towards the evolution integrated in a system, according to an intentional comprehension. The only matter that counts is the intention of the text itself, the spiritual profile of the doctrine itself: the meaning of a work according to its interior coherence, the historical emergence of a singular and original spirituality. For the historian of philosophy abandons the eternal problems, in favor of approaching in detail the texts of the interpretative traditions, his task being to return to the data of the text. The text does not exist as a transcendent reference or as an ideal state; being itself a historical product, the text "produces history" [4]. But, observation and explanation do not accomplish the historian's task. "To know well and to understand well the doctrines, to explain them, as far as one is capable of, as the author would do it himself, to expose them according to the spirit and up to a certain point in the author's style: this is the essential task, that one to which all the others must be subordinated" [1]. We have mentioned here several stages of the hermeneutical way of understanding the history of philosophy: explanation, comprehension, interpretative knowledge and, above all - or rather piercing through them -, an intimate identification with the spirit of the author, with his living thoughts, and not a psychological assimilation which intends to create a unique horizon, as V. Cousin believes when he says that the history of philosophy must trust psychology which "offers even to histoty its most reliable light" [5]. In fact, "the systems of philosophies are living thoughts. It is only by seeking in the book the way to revive these thoughts in oneself that one may hope to understand them" [1].

In this case both the historian and the author are philosophers; each time the historian presents, explains and understands a theory or a certain doctrine he tries to abandon his own philosophy, if he has one, his own beliefs

and experiences, in order to penetrate better in a foreign world. What he is gaining at the level of methodological extroversion - by a sort of phenomenological reduction, putting himself in parentheses - is lost at the level of creative singularity, both regarding the doctrine in its individuality as well as the historian's own world. What is preferable: an impersonal historian without philosophy who explains neither his philosophy nor that of a specific and repeatable truth, or a historian who understands the history of philosophy through his own philosophy and personal truth? It is obvious that, in the first case, the history of philosophy is subordinated to a method which tries each time to reveal a way of objectivity close to that proposed by the sciences of nature; in the second case, we have an interpretative discourse which claims to discover everywhere the manifestations of a subjective yet universal truth, the history of philosophy being the development of a 'unique living spirit' taking itself into possession (the case of Hegel). "What this thesis implies - argues É. Bréhier in his Introduction entitled Les postulats de l'Histoire de la Philosophie - is the existence of a kind of historical a priori, which consists in the nature of the spirit [...] The history of philosophy is the history of the spirit's manifestations. [...] The past does not oppose itself any more to the present; it is conditioning it and, justified by it, it is only unrolling the unity of a systematic and preconceived plan. Every history of philosophy till our days is founded on a discussion of this postulate" [6]. As we shall see, both ways must be avoided, became, as V. Delbos states, "if the history of philosophy must not ignore the philosophical spirit which begot the doctrines keeping between them in more or less severe forms of a certain kinship, it must neither proceed through more or less a priori reconstructions, either concerning the significance and the internal development of the doctrines, or their train" [2].

3. The problem of the authority of the tradition and the hermeneutical distance

It is well known that Gadamer and Ricoeur appreciate the text - every kind of text: literary or philosophical -as the paradigm of distance in communication, problem that situates it in the very centre of the historicity of human experience. In the historical sphere, just the conscience to be carried by traditions that precede us makes possible the use of a historical methodology at the level of the history of philosophy. The historical conscience of the interpreter, the fact that his comprehension belongs to a history determine "the local character of his point of dep^tare" [7], that is the point of view from which the comprehensive perspective opens itself. Yet an ambiguous place, because, on the one hand, it is a place of reflection and, on the other hand, a place of existence, a place of the present where the past is invited to enter. But the traditionalized past is already given, delivered to the historical conscience which tries to appropriate it in reflection. It is as if we wanted to bring before us something that is happening behind us. The fact that the historian of the philosophy projects his own judgment on texts marked (or masked) by the authority of the tradition only confers him the modest role of commentator of some consecrated values, as an attester of their post mortem validity and not that of a witness of their living significant presence. But, beyond the exclusive opposition between authority and reason, "the tradition is in reality always a factor of liberty and of history itself. Even the more authentic, solid tradition does not accomplish in a natural way, owing to the persistence of what already exists, but it needs an affirmation, an assumption and a cultivation. It is, essentially, a preservation (Bewahrung) that participates in the entire historical dynamic" [8]. To preserve in the present something from the past means to make the traditionalized value participate actively at the liberty of the present, to make it implied in a reflection without tradition and perhaps without the dogmatic authority given by the timeless classicization. Here is the point where we are confronting ourselves with the opposition between the alienating distance (Verfremdung) that is supporting the objective approach of the human sciences and the primordial relation of belonging (Zugehörigkeit) to the historical element as such. It is in fact a conflict between the method and the truth: on one hand, the distance makes possible the objectification, conferring a scientific, methodological, statute; on the other hand, it ruins the fundamental relation with the truth it belongs to, that is with a historical reality we are participating in. A problem that seems to set an impossible alternative: either the methodological attitude, situation in which we gain in objectivity, but

we lose the ontological density of the text's reality; or the attitude related to the truth, case in which we gain the reality of existence, but we lose the scientific objectivity.

The fact that, through the text, the interpreter communicates a historical experience - and this is a communication in and through distance - reveals the "positive and the productive function of the distance in the centre of the human experience" [7]. It is about the textual productivity through and in which the human experience is recreated. But it recreates itself as distance in relation with the concrete historicity to which man belongs. A distance that, as we shall see, is no more alienating, forcing a submission to the rules of a foreign world, but a communicating, dialogical and inter-subjective one. "Because the great philosophical ideas, if they adhere in a certain way to individuals and to contingent circumstances, they adhere in other ways to the human spirit itself in search of the truth" [2]. In other words "we are always inside the tradition and this situation-in (Darinstehen) is not an objectifying attitude through which the message of the tradition is thought of as something strange. This one already belongs to us, permanently; it is a model to follow or to deny, a self recognition regarding which historical ulterior judgment on the past will not be a real cognition, but simply the most free arrangement of tradition" [8]. That is why, at the beginning of every hermeneutical historiography applied to philosophy, we must reject the epistemological methodology that dominates the theory of knowledge and ask ourselves if the comprehension proper to human sciences - that is also to the history of philosophy - "is correctly understood when it moves the totality of its own historicity in the sphere of prejudgments that must be elirnrnted," and if it is not more appropriate to understand the philosophy of the past in its historical evolution as it speaks for the present, as it may present itself to the contemporary thought, approach in which the comprehension and the duration of the tradition share a fundamental premise: that of "seeing in tradition an interpellation" [8]. Therefore - so as A. de Libera underlines - because the history of philosophy is often "the history of remembrance and of forgetting," the historian places himself in front of "the amazing distance between the intention of the one who put forward the problem and the strategies of approaching it" [4].

The problem of the hermeneutical situation implied by this fundamental fact is not a simple one. And this is mairiy because "the history of philosophy cannot be, if it wants to be faithful, the abstract history of ideas and of systems, separated from the intentions of their authors, and from the moral and social atmosphere in which they are born"; "one of the greatest difficulties that may be opposed to the idea of an abstract history of the systems is the fact that may be called the transfer of the level of doctrines' [6], for example the polemics on the limits of the domains of faith and reason. In order to illustrate this transfer, to correct some optic illusions and to reduce the distance that separates historiographical sketches from reality in its complexity, E. Gilson for instance, in his Preface to The Philosophy of the Middle Ages, places all the events in the large context of a history of intellectual culture in the Middle Ages, trying - as he says - "to tell a history" [9]; from the main moments he retains only what can explain its general meaning. Therefore, the division in centuries and series of authors is only a simple frame. Despite the effort to follow closely the concrete, he admits that all history of the medieval philosophy supposes the decision to abstract this philosophy from the theological medium in which it appeared and from which it cannot be separated without violating the historical reality. So he does not admit any severe demarcation line between the history of philosophy and the history of theology, and that is because there is nothing more legitimate, from the point of view of the general history of philosophy, than to ask oneself how the philosophical problems of the Greeks have evolved during the first fourteen centuries of the Christian era. Another example is that of H. Corbin, who raises almost the same methodological problems in the Foreword of his History of the Islamic Philosophy. He states that in order to suggest a general orientation, able to understand the meaning and the development of the philosophical meditation, "the concept of Islamic philosophy can't be neither limited to the traditional diagram present in the hand-books of the history of philosophy" nor separated -as in the West since medieval Scholasticism - from theology, where the history of philosophy as well as the history in general is divided in three periods (Antiquity, Middle Ages, Modern Times). A diagram that is not appropriate to the periods according to the spiritual tradition of the Islamic philosophy, whose real significance and continuity may be understood taking into account other "more serious and more lasting signs to characterize

a 'type of thinking' than the simple chronological references" [10]. Therefore, not a periodisation brought from the exterior, but an involved insight according to which "in Islam in particular, the history of philosophy and the history of spirituality are inseparable" [10]. It is obvious that in this case the history of philosophy must be conceived in terms of networks, of transfers and of substitutions, and "the historian's task is to describe as far as possible the complex game of transformations and of gaps which are modeling the appearance of the historical development" [4].

4. The problem of the philosophical meaning of the history of philosophy, between the skepticism towards a variable history and the dogmatism of the unique unhistorical truth

The enounced problem is intimately connected with that of an "implied subjectivity, implied by the expected objectivity", "not my own subjectivity, but that of man" [11]. It is a reflected subjectivity because it corresponds to the subjectivity that is reflection, implying both that of the historian of philosophy, as the first reader whose comprehensive historical lecture is at the same time an interpretative historical writing, but also the reflection of the reader of the history of philosophy, whose reading is not properly speaking secondary, but involved in the hermeneutical task of comprehension. Both historian and reader are, in a way, placed in a presupposition that is not a dogmatic prejudgment, but their existential situation, because they are historical beings, meaning that they live in a history to which they are related personally. Every exegesis is accomplished by presupposition since it can only be historical and personal. The philosophical texts are speaking, but they are doing it through the historical person of the exegete. This aspect implies a historical method, which is "the presupposition of the questioning of the texts," and not an exegesis inspired by the dogmatic prejudges that "does not listen what the text says, but makes it say what it wants to hear" [12]. The interpreted philosophical texts are the very objectivity supposed by the historian's comprehensive subjectivity. A pure objectivist historical method that sees the history of philosophy only as a succession of doctrines understands only the continuity of a closed evolution, an interrupted development from causes to effects. This is the position of an abstract and exterior method of understanding the history of philosophy.

An authentic existential interpretation needs to destruct this scholastic historiography, renewing its premises on the level of historical comprehension. Causal train of doctrines and systems implies also a hermeneutical train, seen on both sides, that is from the historic and from the reader's points of view. It is a perspective that is operating with the significance of active factors which bind together doctrines that seem isolated at first sight. The textual philosophical phenomenon is questioned regarding its multiple significant valences, which are as many presuppositions of understanding the relations they keep with other philosophical phenomena, even in an interdisciplinary context (e. g. an interpretation of the medieval mystical currents understood from the point of view of their influence on the history of art). That is a research in which the historian is involved with his entire existential position. So that historical comprehension must make philosophical historiography human, and that is because it always supposes "a relation between the interpreter and the matter expressed (directly or indirectly) in the text" [12], a vital relation between the historian and the matter spoken about. The existential meeting that engages the historian's being in a historical problem supposes his permanent dialogue with living texts interpreted from inside. This inner enlightenment is in fact the hermeneutical horizon of the questioning, the interpreter's active participation to the present existence of the past works. They are really signifying once more only in the comprehension of the historian who "translates" this language for the understanding of all, and they are responding only to those who feel themselves personally concerned by the fact that they are questioning, for whom the problem raised by the questioned texts is their own problem. And that is because "through language in a philosopher's works, what we are looking for is, as far as possible, the philosopher's doctrine such as he conceived it himself' [2]. It is a technical language, proper to the singularity of a certain historical theory, but a language that "has been adherent from the beginning to ideas of a more profound and universal range" [2]. It is obvious that in this new perspective or "fusion of horizons" the diagram subject - object does not function any

more, since the historical comprehension can be objective only in the engaged subjectivity of those for whom to understand means to understand themselves.

Seen from this perspective, understood as memory of the great particular philosophies, "the history of philosophy does not reduce itself to an irrational m^ch of dispersed monographs [...] This history isn't any more 'the imaginary museum' of the philosophic works, but the philosopher's way from himself to himself. The history of philosophy is a work of philosophy as a turning of clarifying oneself' [11]. On one hand, confronted with the unity of truth, the history of philosophy cannot affirm rationally this unity, because there are no enunciable or declarative logos in its historical continuity. On the other hand, the horizon opened towards all the doctrines in their succession is not unitary; its aperture is fragmented in a multitude of 'windows' corresponding to each system apart. What is variable, in spite of filiations or even epigonic repetitions, is the history inside philosophy; we may say that the historian cannot bathe twice in the same river of philosophy; there is not only the unity of the horizon which splits aside, but also his own point of view according to an existential and historical comprehension, the choice he must assume in valorizing some elements to the detriment of others. "The work of the spirit is a continuous oscillation from the unity to the parts and from the parts to the unity. It is so that one has to proceed in order to understand [...] through this alternative movement of induction and of deduction" [1]; but it is also the ambiguous status of history of philosophy which "is modulating itself on the Same and on the Other, on the One and on the Multiple. It is finally the very ambiguous status of humanity, for the history of philosophy is, in the last analysis, one of the privileged ways on which humanity fights for its unity and its durability" [11].

As we could see, "the history of philosophy is a philosophical activity. The philosopher is the one who, in order to philosophize, tries to understand himself through his historical memory; and it is an act of philosophy to make a history of philosophy" [11]. This means that, from a methodological and epistemological point of view, the history of philosophy being by its very nature related both to the general philosophy and to the general history, its ambivalent status determines the problem of what P. Ricceur calls "the 'aporia' of the comprehension in the history of philosophy" [11]. A paradoxical situation confronts us with two poles or two limit ideas of comprehension: philosophy as a system and philosophy as singularity. If in the first case we have the subornation of foe history to an 'ideal' system that overhangs all the diachronic sequences pierced through by a major defining Idea, in the second, isolated philosophy is no more than a moment of history, but enveloped in the whole history. In both models of truth, history is in fact denied: the triumph of a rational system leaves behind a wasted history annihilated in the historian's own unhistorical perspective; the triumph of singular philosophy supposes for the historian to annihilate himself in a foreign world, to give up his own historicity in favour of that one which defines the other's comprehension.

5. Conclusion

In order to avoid this situation that seems to have an impossible issue, the history of philosophy would rather be based on the open horizon of the communication between two intentionalities, on reciprocity and inter-subjectivity. But, underlines Ricceur, "what characterizes the historical communication is the fact that it is unilateral; history is this segment of inter-subjectivity in which reciprocity is impossible, because the men of the past are not present for me [...] As a historian, I shall address my questions to a work that does not respond" [11]. And if it does not respond it means that it signifies neither in my personal comprehension and nor in that of the general comprehension of men of the present. Does this fact mean, for the history of philosophy, that questioning is intimately connected with signifying only in a historical comprehension? That is: I can read and understand philosophers' works not because history is denied or subordinated to my own historicity, but because we take part to the same history. We must get rid of "the unhistorical illusion", for the simple reason that "an unhistorical way of access to the problems raised by the history of philosophy does not exist" [4]. No question may be put to an unhistorical fact, whose answer is not its own one, but that of all and of nobody; no significant answer

corresponds to a proposal of a universal meaning of the question, to a general and abstract question which is not put by anybody. The double character of every history is to be in the same time structural and factual, and the history of philosophy manifests this latent duality; "splitting itself in two models of intelligibility, it reveals what it was subjacent to history" [11].

This is also a limit of the historical comprehension of the history of philosophy and in general of the philosophical discomse. This 'scholastic' way of thinking historical tradition involved in the history of philosophy must be destructed in order to free the philosophical dialogue inside the historical context, on the level of a type of comprehension that assumes temporality as the condition of the possibility of historicity. In fact it supposes an internalization of the temporal relation in a positive sense, as an original determination of the comprehension. The comprehension of the history of philosophy is first of all a comprehension of time; it acts in the movement of time, rather in the very 'clash' of times whose chaos is lightened not by a new over-ordering doctrine, but by the questioning of a historian who is relating himself to past philosophies as to living beings able to respond. As we have seen, it is fatal to think "that a skilful restitution of past doctrines is sufficient in order to adapt them to present questions; because it would often be to efface the meaning of these questions for the profit of retrospective solutions [...] Not only this past partially transmitted to us the questions we have to examine; but it prepared for this examination more and more precise methods, better and better appropriated concepts" [2].

The Mstoty of philosophy becomes a work in progress, implying "the possibility of questioning and of discovering history with the means of historiography" [13], questioning being itself characterized by historicity. When Heidegger refers to "the need of a relaxation of the rigid tradition and of an elimination of the covering layers brought by it," he understands this task as a destruction (Destruktion) realized in the horizon of the questionable [13]. The sense of this word is a positive one, it means deconstruction and not destroying, implying at its end the moment of recuperation. For the tradition is covering the real meaning of the essence of philosophy, the historian of philosophy must deconstruct the traditional historiography - that is the historiography captive in 'scholastic,' congealed structures and systems, in the closed order of a blind succession of mute doctrines - by a sort of archeological operation, in order to free the original significance. In order to find out "what is hidden under the so called historiography", "what are the real problems behind it," the historian of philosophy often realizes that he must firstly forget all the historical categorizations: "we are moving on a ground of shadows and of prefabricated names, the domain of a generalized philosophical ambiguity. Consequently, the first thing required to the historian is to undo, to deconstruct those historiographical categories in order to reconstruct the philosophical cartography" of an epoch [4]. Questioning the living philosopheme means to make it able to respond as a historical phenomenon inside the historical comprehension. "The clarification of the task of a destruction of history of philosophy on the historiographical level" [13] is the task of the historical comprehension which questions the philosophical works of the past not according to a preconceived structural dimension, but to their eventful essence, that is by an interpellation of the significance covered and recovered by tradition, dis-covered only from the existential point of view.

Passing through time, making resound in the present the answers of the past, this difficult task does not imply for the historian of philosophy a linear continuous route, but often, as we have mentioned, a transfer of the level of doctrines, the spiritual context of their origins, the influences they support and the modifications they accuse. For instance, proposing himself to define the different aspects of the transition from the medieval ways of thinking to those belonging to the modern time in various fields of knowledge ("the changes in the significations of three divine attributes from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century"), Amos Funkenstein begins his investigation on the threshold of questions -"In what sense the continuity was kept? What exactly was revolutionary? What categories of continuity and change still have heuristic value?" [14]. But these questions suppose a disjointed continmty and innovation, for the 'new' often consists not in inventing new categories or new forms of thinking, but rather in a surprising way of employing the existent ones. A fertile historical comprehension, revealing - in the diversity of possible ways of the transition from anteriority to the changes operated in posterity - two main directions: the dialectic anticipation of a new theory by an older one and the

transplantation of the existent categories in a new field, their revival in a new perspective. Applying "the test of modification through shades" to the pure history of philosophy, such points of transition may be, for the first situation, the dialectic anticipation of the theory developed by Jean-Luc Marion [15] by Schelling, concerning God seen as "what is before being" [16]. As for the second situation, the transplantation or rather the melting of (neo)platonic ideas in Saint Augustine's Christian doctrine, and next, in a second stage, the transplantation of these mixed systems in the new fields of Luther's thinking and in Jansenius's Augustinus that nourished Jansenism.

Finally, we must not forget the reader of the history of philosophy. What provokes his interest to keep reading such a study? If the historical exegesis is an implied existential one, going from the perspective opened by the eventful living essence of the philosophical works of the past, his comprehension shares - in Lavelle's words [17] - the "profound access in the interior," where the historian guides him. This "obligation of inferiority" is the very task of both the historian's and of the reader's historical comprehension to find a common truth, to live together the same history, inside a liberated, dis-covered ('destructed') and generous tradition that signifies in a unique light. This is possible because "the human conscience - adds Lavelle - is indivisible: it is present entirely in each man; and he finds in him the same conflicts which oppose him to another." And "if everyone perceives only a part of trufo, all the parts are accorded" [17]. The history of philosophy implies a common work of the historian's historiography and of the reader's historical horizon; if these two are well placed in their intentions, in their commentarium, that is in their minds' journey on the same way (itinerarium mentis), they meet in a foreign world of the past they regard as not only being present, but also regarding them deeply. In fact, they meet the real significance of the text in what A. de Libera calls "the horizon of the questionable," a moving horizon which reflects the game between the visible and the invisible, the spoken and the unspoken of an epoch, because "according to the conceptual network in which it is integrated in a certain moment of history, the question acquires another meaning" [4]. In the conclusive chapter of his study about the Rhenan mystic, A. de Libera declares that "it would not be useless if it incites the reader to question himself with a renewing effort about the general significance of 'Albert' and albertism for the history of philosophy and of theology, [...] arousing questions as many as the fields of recurrence and of coherence between texts or authors it may open" [18]. It is at the same time the 'landscape' of language, because words are tempting to be understood, to attract in a highly special horizon. For instance, arriving to discuss Sohravardî's philosophical work, H. Corbin says that, for its importance, "it is placed, in an ideal topography, at the crossing of foe ways," and about Ibn 'Arabî: "We are reaching now the shore of a sea without limits, the foot of a mountain with its top hidden in the clouds: all these metaphors are good, so great is the amplitude of Ibn 'Arabî's work" [10]. Or A. Besançon introducing the reader into the matter of his history of the doctrines and ideas about foe representation of the divine: "The entire history seemed to me being full of wonderful things, of philosophical and theological splendors, as if the problem of the divine image pulled them out by a thread and led the spectator from top to top on a prominent ridge path. I would like the reader to be captivated as much as me by the splendor of the landscape he is crossing through" [19]. It should be the undeclared hope of every historian of philosophy.


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