Scholarship in the history of philosophy can take many wrong turns, many of which can be induced by professional pressures. New cutting-edge scholarship is supposed to be creative and original. This pushes historians of philosophy to formulate creative and original but sometimes utterly implausible interpretations. Another common misstep involves charity. Interpretation requires us to assume, insofar as we can, that the figure we are interpreting is reasonable. But it sometimes appears that the profession has misunderstood the nature of interpretative charity and thinks that the job of the historian of philosophy is to rescue the historical figure from error at any cost. This can produce bizarre and unnatural interpretations.

But perhaps the single most common failing among historians of philosophy is to lose touch with the heart and soul of the philosopher being studied. This is especially common when they're studying a philosopher whose...

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