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I used to encounter more often than I do now the assumption that philosophy is a branch of literature. In fact when I was younger I often met people – intelligent and educated but untrained in philosophy – who thought that a philosopher was somebody giving voice to his attitudes towards things in general, in the same way as an essayist might, or even a poet, but more systematically, and perhaps on a larger scale: less opinionated than the essayist, less emotional than the poet, more rigorous than either, and perhaps more impartial. With the philosopher, as with the other…

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