It may sound a pretentious thing; but it’s an appeal that many people hold to. (certain) Catholics hold that they are part of a ‘historical’ institution that originally came from Paul. Arabs and European Scholastics can claim common inheritance of Aristotle; and many continentals try to make themselves look ‘analytic’ (where, this word becomes so strangely defined it actually isn’t the ‘analytic’ in the proper sense of the word (the tradition of philosophy predominant in the English Speaking world; which valorises Russell, Frege etc. [an editorial note…’analytic’ philosophy, I think is not a unified term anymore; as there are struggling battles between camps. I would like to write more about this at some point – Michael]).
If one is to call themselves a philosopher; to whom does their heritage belong? Some people appeal immediately to be following from the work of philosophers from the past two or three generations. Lewis is the most striking example for one; but also Quine, Putnam, Strawson, Austin, Russell, and maybe some of the Pragmatists in the 19thC USA body of philosophy.
However; there are those who have such a diverse range of works that many people can claim heritage to. My favourite examples are Newton and Aristotle. Biologists carry the inheritance of Aristtotle’s interest in the empirical study of nature; metaphysicians (post-Kripke) also engage in a similar subject matter to Aristotle; in the fundamental concepts (or ‘ontological categories’) such as BEING (existence), SUBSTANCE, CAUSE, and PERSISTANCE/CHANGE. Newton (my favourite example) has engaged, in his life, upon so many ventures; theoretical physics, pure mathematics, alchemy, Christian apologetics, Biblical exegesis, and not to mention that weird shit about identifying fake coins.
Hume laid claim to being of the inheritance of Newton; he wanted to be the Newton of the Sciences. Kant (because Kant must come up in every post in this blog), who, in many ways opposes Hume quite fundamentally, but also agrees with him in no superficial way either; makes claim to Newton as being fundamental in following. Kant and Hume claim to be continuing the Spirit of Newton’s work; in Hume, the knowledge of things beyond experience, on the basis of observables; for Kant, the mathematical structure of the world. There seems to be a tension in the way in which I have construed Hume and Kant’s appropriation. For you see; Kant appeals to the mathematical success of Newton; appealing to a more metaphysical and rationalist reading of the Principia; however, it is one interpretation which Kant acknowledges (rightly so) that Newton wouldn’t approve of (but should have done so). Hume, by contrast, continues the Empiricist spirit of Newton (that Kant so rejects). Is it no odd thing that the most bitter enemies of today share the most intimately common of ancestors?
A political and social analogy can be made with those now enemies of civil war, who were once of the same kin, but they now fail to recognise. But that aside, I want to consider when inheritors become so widely vastly apart after generations.
Consider the case of someone like Pascal; or Babbage, or Turing; many could appeal to claiming inheritance of their work and projects; computer scientists, theological scientists (for the case of Pascal); Logicians; engineers. Although, I’ve not always thought that theological scientists would see eye to eye with logicians (of course important counterexamples I well know in my own circles).
It is ultimately shallow to lay claim to inheritance. From my own life; I have parents and Jesuit masters who lay claim to being instructional to Sinistre. Yet, during the instruction period of which I undertook with them, they hardly cared about my own developmen; yet when success or attention blooms; they all seem to lay claim to bbeing responsible somehow…bastards.
Sinistre (and S*)