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date: 02 December 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

Philosophy is a field where methodology plays two roles: it is both a framework for, and a subject of, philosophical investigation. These two roles are deeply intertwined. Most significant periods and movements in philosophy have been—at least in part—instigated by a renewed methodology. And this renewal is typically accompanied by a renewed self-consciousness—an explicit conception of philosophy and philosophizing as themselves subjects of philosophical reflection. A surprisingly large portion of good philosophy is not only methodologically self-aware, but also methodologically innovative: think not only of Plato, Descartes, and Wittgenstein, but also of the ways in which contemporary strands in philosophy—from analytic metaphysics to feminist philosophy to empirically informed work in moral psychology—are simultaneously interventions into first-order and second-order philosophical questions. A volume on philosophical methodology is thus not merely a work about how philosophy is done, but also a work of philosophy.

Philosophical methodology is not a field that comes pre-structured. What you think counts as (a significant part of) methodology (or how you draw the distinction between first-and-second order philosophy) and will depend in large part on your philosophical views—in much the same way as what you count as philosophy does. That rendered the task of putting together a volume like this one both challenging and exciting: part of our task was simply figuring out the nature of the task. Many of our contributors asked us what exactly we meant by “methodology” and we were deliberately non-committal in our responses: We didn’t want to impose a conception of methodology on the volume and our contributors. As a result, the contributions in this volume illustrate the wide range of conceptions of what counts as philosophical methodology. That is a central part of the volume’s intention: a carefully curated tour of a range of meta-philosophical perspectives.

That said, the selection of topics does of course reveal something about our perspective. One feature of the volume is particularly important to highlight: we have put a great deal of focus on the connections between philosophy and other disciplines. About a third of the volume is devoted to explorations of these connections. This decision reflects what we think is an important and characteristic feature of philosophy, both in its contemporary incarnation and in its history. At its core, philosophy draws on, contributes to, and connects fields outside philosophy. Maybe more so than any other discipline, philosophy looks outside of itself. There is no limit on the kind of data and theorizing that a philosopher can draw on. There are, of course, philosophers who argue against this conception of philosophy and who think of philosophy as autonomous and fundamentally different from, for example, empirical disciplines. But, as we see it, for those arguments to be remotely plausible they have to be understood as normative claims about what philosophy ought to be. If we just look at the facts about what philosophers have done and are doing, then this openness to other disciplines is striking.

(p. vi) We should admit to a limitation of this volume. The entries all concern what we can coarsely describe as the “Western tradition” of philosophy, and are largely Anglo-American in approach. The volume is already massive (pushing the limits of what the publisher would accept), and adding a correspondingly full range of entries on other approaches was out of the question. The alternative—a single 20-page entry exploring themes from different traditions in rapid-fire fashion—would fail to do justice to their significance and complexity.

Even within our hemisphere, there is a rich world to explore. The volume begins with a meditation on its central question: What is philosophical methodology? This is followed by a cluster of essays that we call “Traditions and Approaches” which examine the topic of philosophical methodology in the Western philosophical tradition from Ancient Greece to the modern anglophone world. The next section explores a range of central “topics” in philosophical methodology—from reflective equilibrium to conceptual analysis to philosophical heuristics. The final section—“Philosophy and its Neighbors”—explores the boundaries (or non-boundaries) between philosophical investigation and investigation in fields such as linguistics, psychology, logic, and political theory.

Though we encouraged authors to read and respond to other essays in the volume, each of the essays has retained the “voice” of its author. This, too, was a deliberate decision. The range of methodological perspectives that this volume represents deserves this range of minds that have been brought together to introduce them. We hope that you will enjoy reading these marvelous entries as much as we have enjoyed preparing them for you.

Herman Cappelen

Tamar Szabó Gendler

John Hawthorne