Even after a once innovative theory has become entrenched, there is need to keep superseded theories in view to sharpen awareness of the principles and merits of the accepted account. But this is true only in the case of successive theories which address an issue which remains stable at a reasonably detailed level of description.--Martha Bolton, "presentation at the inaugural meeting of the Society for Modern Philosophy, held at the 2014 Pacific Division meeting of the APA." [See here for an earlier post on Rutherford's lecture.]
Bolton describes here a very common phenomenon in philosophy. One that, in practice, often makes history function like a cassette player (or walkman),* where 'play' is pressed and the familiar story is re-told with a few details carefully adjusted amidst, countless forced (often tacit) moves. This is not only common in history of philosophy, of course; it's also required for any 'industry' to emerge in which successive journal articles can offer solutions and objections to the very (or nearly) same puzzle (think of the role of the 'myth of the given' within some areas of epistemology, etc.). There is pleasure in repetition with variation; I adore running gags because they are running along (cf. these very serial D&Is). Within 'history,' much Kantian scholarship, which, of course, also often purports to be living Kantian philosophy, requires a stabilized view of, say, 'empiricists' and 'rationalists,' which inevitably flattens whomever is slotted in the categories. Better, of course, to be very flat than to be ignored entirely (cf. Toland, Mandeville, etc.).
I propose to coin the phenomenon that Bolton describes in her honor, the 'The Bolt On,' by which I mean (i) the positing (sometimes tacitly) of a stabilized, superseded target (the SST--(ia) often an anachronistic creature--), which is required not just (ii) to sharpen awareness of the principles and merits of the accepted account (the AA), but also (iii) makes possible a narrative of progress (so that the AA is bolted on the SST), with (iv) a number of fixed points along the way and (iva) often at least one recognizable telos, and (v) that make alternative accounts of the superseded seem impossible and (vi) encourage practitioners to ignore anything that does not fit SST --> AA.
The Bolt On is very useful not just in getting work published but also in teaching students that need to pass an exam; it is often a key step in what I call "Myth," which (recall) "uses narratives about the past to indicate conceptual linkages among (various) and within natural, social, and historical kinds." Myth is not identical to Mish, which contains factual errors about the past. (It's possible that Myth = Mish; but Myth need not be Mish (nor does Mish always need to be Myth).)
*For younger readers here's (a description and) an image: