Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers

By Stuart Brown; Diané Collinson et al. | Go to book overview
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Xenopol, Alexandru Dimitrie

Romanian, b: 1847, Iasy, Romania, d: 1920. Cat: Historian; philosopher of history. Ints: Philosophy of history. Infls: Influenced by other participants in the debate on the nature of history current at his time, e.g. Gervinus, Ottokar Lorenz, Hermann Paul and many others. Appts: Professor, University of Iasy (from 1883).

Main publications:
(1908) La théorie de l'histoire (an expanded version, translated by Xenopol of Principale fundamentale ale istoriei, 1891).
(1901) L'hypothèse dans l'histoire.
(1908) L'histoire, est-elle une science?
Plus substantial works on Romanian history.

Secondary literature:
Botez, O. (1928) Alexandru Xenopol, Bucharest: Tip. Ion C. Vacarescu.
Saveri Varanno, F. (1931) Il problema della storia in Xenopol, Gubbio: Oderisi.

Xenopol, who wrote in French as well as Romanian, was a well-known historian of his generation in Europe.The goal of Xenopol's philosophy of history is to show that history is a science, but of a kind distinct from natural science. He divides changes into two classes, repetitions and successions. A repetition is a change in which the recurring elements are more similar to one another than dissimilar; a succession is a sequence in which the dissimilarity of its elements out-weighs their similarity (1908, p. 365). Natural science studies repetitious change; history studies successive change. Xenopol argues further that to each of these major modes of change corresponds a type of causality. Causality of repetition is such that the cause is always concomitant with the effect; in causality of succession the cause always precedes the effect. Causality of repetition manifests itself as a law of natural science; causality of succession as what Xenopol calls a historical series.

A series is a succession of diverse phenomena, the result of the causal interaction of the multifarious and constantly changing forces at work in history. A historical series is unique, and this has an important corollary for what type of 'laws' are possible in the science of history. The laws of natural science, which pertain to repetitious change, can predict precisely what phenomena will recur when given conditions obtain. Historical laws, which pertain to successive change, cannot in principle predict the exact nature of future historical events, but only the direction or tendency which events will have, granted the historical conditions obtaining.


Xie Youwei (Hsieh Yu-wei)

Chinese, b: Mei County, Guandong Province, China, d: 1976, Taiwan. Cat: Idealist. Ints: Contemporary philosophy; ethics; philosophy of psychology; history and civilization. Educ: Dongwu University and Harvard University. Infls: Royce and Bradley. Appts: Professor, Zejian University; Professor, Nanjing Central University; Director, Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Culture, Taiwan; Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Main publications:
(n.d.) Elements of Ethics, Zhengzhong Book Company.
(n.d.) Philosophy and Psychology, Zhengzhong Book Company.
(n.d.) The Spirit of Chinese Culture.
(1941) Critiques of Famous Contemporary Philosophical Works, Chongqing, Shengli.
(1953) Mankind and Culture.
(1955) Talking About Philosophy.
(1963) History of Western Philosophy.
(1969) Collection of Essays on Chinese and Western Philosophy.
(trans.) F.H. Bradley, Ethical Studies.
(trans.) J. Royce, Philosophy of Loyalty.

Secondary literature:
Briere, O. (1956) Fifty Years of Chinese Philosophy 1898-1950, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.


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