Long, Christopher P. “Saving ta legomena: Aristotle and the History of Philosophy,” The Review of Metaphysics 60 (2006): 247-267.
By taking seriously the extent to which Aristotle understands the things said (ta legemona) by his predecessors as genuine phenomena that express something of the truth about beings, this essay challenges the orthodox understanding of Aristotle’s approach to the history of philosophy as merely a thinly veiled attempt to legitimize the authority of his own philosophical ideas. Drawing on both the continental phenomenological approach to Aristotle and the Anglo-American analytic and pragmatic recognition of the important role an orientation toward ta phainomena play in Aristotle’s method, this article turns to two specific texts—the Physics and the Parts of Animals—to articulate how Aristotle’s engagement with his historical predecessors is itself an integral moment of his philosophical investigation into the being of natural beings.
John Herman Randall and Hans Georg-Gadamer provide the conceptual vocabulary through which Aristotle’s engagement with his predecessors can be best understood; for each in his own way expresses the view that genuine philosophy opens new possibilities for the future by critically engaging the past. The essay concludes by suggesting at once the limitations of Aristotle’s approach to his predecessors and the continuing importance of his recognition that philosophy cannot be pursued in isolation from its history.
The Review of Metaphysics has generously allowed me to make the full text of this article available in .pdf format. Read it here: