Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy

Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy

Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy

Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy

Synopsis

This is an original and timely volume that examines the distinctive and important role played by humanism in the development of early modern philosophy. Focusing on individual authors as well as intellectual trends, this collection of essays portrays the humanist movement as an essential part of the philosophy of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Excerpt

There are those who would have us believe that the study of the history of philosophy is enjoying something of a revival in English-speaking countries. Evidence for this view is not, on the face of it, that difficult to find. Looking at the state of the ancient philosophy, one sees a robust and confident subject whose best practitioners combine philological expertise and historical sagacity with philosophical skill. Likewise, early modern philosophy reveals its house to be in good order. Those who work on the philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, having liberated themselves from the anachronism so typical of post-war scholarship on Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume and Kant, are now far more aware of, and responsive to, the general intellectual context in which the canonical works of modern philosophy were composed and disseminated; the publication in 1998 of The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy provides solid evidence of this new, more historical outlook. The general buoyancy of the history of philosophy in the Anglophone world can be illustrated still further by examining current practices in fields such as medieval and nineteenth-century philosophy. Even analytic philosophy, the least historically minded of disciplines, is nowadays characterized by a greater awareness of its origins and development.

Nevertheless, one major area of philosophy’s past remains neglected by the philosophical academy: the Renaissance. The appearance in 1986 of The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, and in 1992 of Renaissance Philosophy, volume III in the Oxford University Press series ‘A History of Western Philosophy’, has made little impact on scholars based in departments of philosophy. The three centuries from the death of William of Ockham in 1347 to the publication of Descartes’s Meditations in 1641 are still treated as a ‘specialist subject’ and left, with a sigh of relief, to the attentions of intellectual historians and historians of science.

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