Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Synopsis

This study of Western philosophic systems, their types, history, relations, and projected future in the next half century, stems from Robert S. Brumbaugh's forty-year fascination with the paradox of the many consistent overarching systems of ideas that are nevertheless mutually exclusive. Brumbaugh argues that when we isolate these systems's patterns and look at them more abstractly, they consistently fall into four main types, and the interaction of these four types of explanation and order is a dominant theme in the history of Western philosophy. In Brumbaugh's view these four philosophic systems are not, as some critical historians and thinkers have claimed, so different that they are mutually unintelligible, forcing us to make a choice among them that is entirely arbitrary. But neither are they, as a majority of past thinkers and historians have hoped, simply parts of some single "right" or "orthodox" scheme. Their mutual understanding requires a method of transformation that interprets one to another without destroying their diversity. The history of Western philosophy from the fifth century A. D. to the present shows a pattern of alternating revolutions in systematic method and direction of explanation. Brumbaugh feels that the pattern is continuing in a change toward a revised Platonism, just beginning with the twenty-first century. He anticipates that it will be a Platonism of a new texture, one that has matured and learned a great deal in the course of the adventures of its ideas through space and time.

Excerpt

This book is a study of Western philosophic systems, their types, history, relation, and projected future in the next half century. If systems are defined formally and we look at the classifications that have appeared over the past fifty years, it seems that there is a consensus emerging that the number of families is four, and the same four are defined and described in the various accounts. I will begin with an autobiographical inventory of the system classifications I encountered and my own final conviction that there was agreement on the set of four. I will then explain in more detail what the four systems are. This raises the question of how they are related. For the most part, philosophers treating this topic agreed that they are related by sharp mutual exclusion, if not incomprehension. Instead of that, I think they are systematically related by operations of transformation and in fact form a closed circle as one is transformed into another. In that case, there will not be a fifth "system family" satisfying the defining criteria we are using. And a look at the history of pure reason (which Kant thought someone should write, briefly) bears out the idea that major changes in dominant ways of thought correspond to stages in the transformation cycle. We have not, then, invented new systems of pure reason since classical times, and are not about to discover any. The history, further, suggests where the next revolution in dominant philosophic style will lead in the next century: It will advance from process thought to resurgent Platonism.

The assumption, or argument, that the four families are somehow wholly incommensurable does not do justice to their relations by transformation. Those are easier to demonstrate than to formalize; but I will give examples of programmed substitution rules that change passages of Whitehead as input into an output of pure Aristotle and vice versa, and a simpler set that exchanges Plato and Bergson.

One implication of my view is that there must be counterparts of any element of one system in each of the others. This is clearly not true if we mean that . . .

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