I am wondering what peoples opinion's are on the most promising areas of study in the history of philosophy currently. I am currently reading on Renaissance philosophy, particularly some authors from the 1950's or some who were getting their education through that period (Barzun, Kristller). It is very interesting reading Kristeller and hearing him speak of the awaiting of better translations, complete manuscripts, etc. and his excitement about budding, promising areas of scholarship on a relatively new subject.

In 2018, I am wondering what areas remain understudied, undertranslated, etc. Are there any? Perhaps I should add, by the Western tradition. I was going to suggest Eastern philosophy, but of course it isn't understudied so much as under represented in the Western tradition. So, with that being said. And if not, is the future of the field just constant reinterpreting.. correcting old prejudices (some might say with new ones) ..?

  • 1
    I will also mention John William Miller. I have been intending to look into his philosophy, but so far I've only read one of his books. google.com/… – Gordon Oct 9 '18 at 12:34
  1. The Italian Hegelian tradition that runs from Jaja and Spaventa through to Croce (though Croce had severe criticisms of Hegel) and Gentile is an area little studied in the history of philosophy.

  2. The work of the late 18th-century/ early 19th centuries Scottish philosophers, Thomas Reid and Thomas Brown, receives only marginal attention yet much of it is sophisticated.

  3. In the early 19th century Sir William Hamilton is remembered if at all for 'the quantification of the predicate' but Hamilton wrote extensively on metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. John Stuart Mill devoted an entire and rather long book to the critical examination of Hamilton. He is overdue to be looked into again.

Those are some leads that might be of interest.

  • 1
    I found it. This is what I remembered. It was an introduction to a book, The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom. Introduction by Dr. Emanuel Paparella: ernestopaolozzi.it/1288/… sorry, I do not know exactly how "new" this is. But it's good, imo. – Gordon Oct 9 '18 at 12:09
  • 1
    The above concerns Croce. You may have already read the book, but I put it down if others are interested. – Gordon Oct 9 '18 at 12:13

There are many "under-studied" philosophers at any given time or place. Let me give a few examples:

  • In France, there are (mostly) not German philosophers that are studied, but their French interpreters (who at times vastly distort the message even when translating only), e.g. Kojève for Hegel.
  • There is a revival of broad Kant-Scholarship of a new level in English-speaking academia since the Cambridge Editions contributed translations that are much more precise.
  • There were times when the linguistic turn played a big role, others when epistemology was more naturalistic, including the corresponding authors being "in".
  • There are often local research nodes, e.g. about Perennial Philosophy, Ancient Greek, Scholastic, Early Modern, Eastern, etc. that emerge because of a certain professor that educates and attracts specialists in the field. Often they are not even known on a broad scale, even if they publish.

That being said: I do not think there is any "under-studied philosophy" per se. This may be the case in certain circles/journals, certain historical periods, certain language communities. So the question can be broadly answered with "we probably do not even know 90% of the best philosophy ever written".

Also, academic philosophy is not about parroting or (re-)interpreting what is already written. That is one strand of philosophy, certainly, and mostly done in departments that work in the history of philosophy. The vast majority is about writing genuine philosophy using certain bits and parts of other philosophy as part of the argument, either to support or to dissociate one's own position.

Thus, what you learn in academic philosophy is not about parroting or re-interpreting other philosophers, but to express your own position by using arguments of other philosophers as either positive or negative foil (and the form of doing so without plagiarising). Only one aspect of this is knowing arguments of other philosophers in the first place. And yes, there are certain mainstream philosophers you learn. But everyone is free to choose to write about others (less/not known) as a postgraduate and many, especially more senior lecturers, do so.


Philosophers in the academic community leave almost unexplored one entire area of research by following the physicists and rarely asking the 'why?' question. They know that all significant problems of philosophy arise because metaphysical questions are undecidable but very few ask why this is the case. Why not? Because it opens the door to mysticism.

As a consequence of its distaste for this question in our Western professional philosophy almost no work has been done in this area. The Dialethists ask 'why?' and conclude that the Universe is paradoxical and incomprehensible but this is not so much an answer as a dismissal of the question. The Theists conclude it's an incomprehensible Divine miracle but this is the abandonment of philosophy. Kant, Hegel, Bradley, Brown and some others do attempt to address the 'why?' question but for Russell's Western tradition, as his well-known survey shows, this is an almost virgin field of research.

A failure to ask the 'why?' question for metaphysical problems means that mysticism is, as you say, not simply under-studied but barely studied at all. This presents an opportunity for amateur researchers since there is much work to be done and little professional competition. The only problem would be that when we embark on this research we have departed from the Western tradition and arrived at the gates of the 'Land of Woo' or 'Eastern' philosophy, where academic philosophers must start worrying about their tenure and the derisory laughter of their peers.

As the Perennial philosophy is a global system this means the every area of philosophy is under-studied in the West, from ontology to epistemology to ethics.

  • This question is extensively studied in the literature on scientific explanation in philosophy of science. Start with Wesley Salmon’s “Four decades of scientific explanation” – ChristopherE Oct 16 '18 at 20:58
  • @ChristopherE - Empirical science has no method for studying this question so I'm not sure what you mean here. The question is not just metaphysical but meta-metaphysical, I have never heard a scientist make a comment about it or even express an interest and few philosophers seem any more enthusiastic. There would be no point in reading a book about four decades of scientific explanation if we're studying a metaphysical question. Horses for courses and all that. – user20253 Oct 17 '18 at 13:19
  • PS - Oops. I just remembered the physicist Paul Davies. Bravely and unusually he does examine this question in 'Mind of God'. He concludes that mysticism may be where the answer lies, albeit he is sceptical. – user20253 Oct 17 '18 at 13:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.