A work in the history of systematic philosophy that is itself animated by a systematic philosophic aspiration, this book by one of the most prominent American philosophers working today provides an entirely new way of looking at the development of Western philosophy from Descartes to the present. Brandom begins by setting out an historical context and outlining a methodological rationale for his enterprise. Then, in chapters on Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Frege, Heidegger and Sellars, he pursues the most fundamental philosophical issues concerning intentionality, and therefore mindedness itself, revealing an otherwise invisible set of overlapping themes and explanatory strategies. Variously functionalist, inferentialist, holist, normative and social pragmatist in character, the explanations of intentionality offered by these philosophers, taken together, form a distinctive tradition.
The fresh perspective afforded by this tradition enriches our understanding of the philosophical topics being addressed, provides a new conceptual vantage point for viewing our philosophical ancestors, and highlights central features of the sort of rationality that consists in discerning a philosophical tradition - and it does so by elaborating a novel, concrete instance of just such an enterprise.