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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 1999


Jay F. Rosenberg
Pages 217-225

How Not to be Systematic
Three Case Studies

Philosophy is by its nature systematic in intent. In Wilfrid Sellars’ words, it aims “to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.” Philosophical systematicity is thus a matter of both scope and structure. The purview of a philosophical inquiry may encompass more or less of what is of rational concern to us, and such structure as its outcome has will constituted by the fundamental global commitments that inform it—realism, nominalism, expressivism, naturalism, pragmatism, or the like. Lack of systematic vision arguably subverts philosophical reflection, but genuine systematicity turns out to be surprisingly difficult to achieve. I offer three brief case studies, which illustrate different, but significantly related, ways of failing to achieve it.

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