I'd tagged a few questions with history-of-philosophy before I noticed that there was a history tag. (I overlooked the giant clue in the UI.) history strikes me as insufficiently specific because it could be thought to cover both the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history. So, were I king, I'd introduce both the longer tags and eliminate the short one. But, it would clearly be rude to do that without seeing what others think.

I do grant that philosophy of history is a fairly minor branch of philosophy. But, if this site works, it will get questions in the fullness of time.

1 Answer 1


On a site named "Philosophy", I'm initially inclined to consider a tag to be redundant, but I very much take your point that there is an important distinction to be made between the history of philosophy itself and philosophy about history.

My conclusion goes off in a slightly different direction, though. I'm not yet convinced that we should have a tag for questions about the history of philosophy at all. None of the questions that currently hold either the tag and the tag actually benefit from that tag. In some sense, anything that isn't happening right now is part of the "history" of philosophy. Given that it could be applied to nearly every question, it becomes meaningless. There's no reason to include a "history" tag on a question about Nietzsche's thought, or Hume's rhetoric. As far as I'm concerned, it's a meta tag, which I discuss here.

I suggest eliminating completely. There are much better and more descriptive tags that can be applied to questions.

And I think that we should retain the / tag, but reserve it for questions that are actually about the philosophy of history. That is, questions which are themselves about history.

  • I don't really agree that history of philosophy is equally applicable to any question. There does seem to me to be a considerable difference between the question "What is the justification for the state?" and "How did Hobbes justify the state?" (Short, not good, questions, to meet comment constraints.) While both might be the subject of debate, the historical question has a better claim to have a unique correct answer that interested researches might converge upon.
    – vanden
    Jun 11, 2011 at 16:04
  • @vanden: It's pretty common in English and literary studies to treat authors' works as if they're occurring in the present. You see literary analysis papers written in present tense, rather than in past tense. I don't understand what the advantage is of tagging a question about Hobbes's thought with "history". We could simply tag it "hobbes", and you'd know it was about Hobbesian thought in particular. (I'd also go so for as to say "What is the justification for the state?" is far too broad, but I follow your point, of course.) At some point, history is relevant to everything, even the "is". Jun 12, 2011 at 4:13
  • Yes, too broad an example; needed a short one for comment box. I'm used to thinking of the history of philosophy as a sub-specialty in academic philosophy, with its own journals, somewhat different research methods, etc. But, it isn't obvious that my inclination to classify as do analytically inclined Depts. of Phil is the best, here. Nor do I see another voice with my view. So, I shall let it go.
    – vanden
    Jun 12, 2011 at 5:11

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