A Dark History of Modern Philosophy

A Dark History of Modern Philosophy

A Dark History of Modern Philosophy

A Dark History of Modern Philosophy

Synopsis

Delving beneath the principal discourses of philosophy from Descartes through Kant, Bernard Freydberg plumbs the previously concealed dark forces that ignite the inner power of modern thought. He contends that reason itself issues from an implicit and unconscious suppression of the nonrational. Even the modern philosophical concerns of nature and limits are undergirded by a dark side that dwells in them and makes them possible. Freydberg traces these dark sources to the poetry of Hesiod, the fragments of Heraclitus and Parmenides, and the Platonic dialogues and claims that they rear their heads again in the work of Spinoza, Schelling, and Nietzsche. Freydberg does not set forth a critique of modern philosophy but explores its intrinsic continuity with its ancient roots.

Excerpt

Despite the customary practice of treating the history of modern philosophy as the evolution of fundamentally coherent doctrine, heterogeneity is an unmistakable feature in the thought of Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Kant. Hetero-geneity, “other-birthing” or “other-genus” summons thought to the fissure, the gap that allows for its occurrence. This characteristic can take surprising shapes and can lead to unexpected developments. Spinoza as the most rigorous of the rationalists and Hume as the most rigorous of the empiricists leave little or no room for a gap between different sources that bear upon our condition. However, even in these thinkers one can discern abysses, fissures that open onto dark regions where sight becomes most difficult, and another way of sensing is required.

What I am proposing is the following alteration of the standard narrative even as it seems most incontestable. the divisions within the standard narrative do not concern—at least do not essentially concern— the role of “reason” on one side and the role of “experience” on the other. Rather, both of these putative divisions respond to the darkness to which we are all given over. While this darkness can be called by many names, it escapes all of them: abyss, ignorance, death, impenetrability, Hades. At Iheaetetus 155c, the eponymous figure around whom the dialogue takes place, confesses that he finds himself wondering excessively (hyperphyos), to which Socrates famously replies that all philosophy begins in wonder and that wonder is the mark of the philosopher.

The nature of the concealment I shall attempt to disclose finds its precursor in Aristotle’s response to the matter of wonder. While wonder is the origin of all philosophy, its overcoming in epistêmê—in knowledge or in “science”—constitutes its purpose or end, its telos. Aristotle’s creation of a series of sciences, from physics through psychology and animal studies to meteorology—not to mention metaphysics, logic, and aesthetics . . .

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