When introduced to a new concept, do you prefer to be given a definition for it in terms of other concepts, or do you prefer a story of how the word came to be used as it’s used? Which kind of account is more enlightening?
- “Electrons”, “haploidism”, and “sulfur” are popularly regarded to have a nature. These are the proper subject matter of the Naturwissenschaften.
- “Freedom”, “skepticism”, and “the right to vote” are popularly regarded to have a history. These are the proper subject matter of the Geisteswissenshaften.
This can be applied to philosophy itself or major topics in philosophy (ethics, philosophy the mind, epistemology, mereology). It is a meta-philosphical problem to establish what kind of account is satisfactory. This distinction underlies a fork in the road for new German graduate students in philosophy: Kant oder Hegel?
Put another way: Verstand (understanding) or Vernunft (reasoning)
Brandom says one’s sympathy to Rorty is directly proportional to the extent one does find stories over definitions satisfying. ↩