Typologies of Philosophical Personalities

There’s a somewhat disused trend of identifying philosophical methods or schools by the personalities required for them. I associate this with Karl Jaspers’s Psychology of Worldviews and Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity, but there are precursor typologies in Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and William James. It largely fell by the wayside in the second half of the twentieth century in the Anglo-American tradition, as the analytic tradition lumped us all together; other ways of splitting the discipline took hold. Still I see echoes of it in BLS Nelson’s discussion of four kinds of philosophers: the programmist, informalist, syncretist, and lone wolves. Check it out. (My own predilections run towards syncretism.) The beauty of such typologies is that they capture both methodological and normative pluralisms without giving rise to either nihilism or relativism.

There are also some great quips, like this:

Refutation of the deeper forms of skepticism was not very high on Quine’s agenda; if there is a Cartesian demon, he waits in vain for the naturalist’s attention.

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