This article discusses recent attempts to provide the genre of biography with a philosophical, theoretical foundation and attempts to show that such efforts are fundamentally misguided. Biography is, I argue, a profoundly nontheoretical activity, and this, precisely, makes it philosophically interesting. Instead of looking to philosophy to provide a theory of biography, we should, I maintain, look to biography to provide a crucially important example and model of what Ludwig Wittgenstein called “the kind of understanding that consists in seeing connections.” This kind of understanding stands in sharp contrast to the theoretical understanding provided by science and is, Wittgenstein maintained, what we as philosophers are, or should be, striving for.
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Ray Monk; Life without Theory: Biography as an Exemplar of Philosophical Understanding. Poetics Today 1 September 2007; 28 (3): 527–570. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2007-007
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