Claude Helvetius: Philosopher of Democracy and Enlightenment

Claude Helvetius: Philosopher of Democracy and Enlightenment

Claude Helvetius: Philosopher of Democracy and Enlightenment

Claude Helvetius: Philosopher of Democracy and Enlightenment

Excerpt

The difficulties of writing a philosophical study during a period of the most intense social conflicts in American and world history imposes serious responsibilities on the historian of ideas. More than in the past, the necessity of dealing with a subject matter that lends itself to the practical struggles of social progress, and does this with clarity and directness of expression, becomes the foremost task of the writer.

This work is addressed to both those who are acquainted with the major themes of philosophy and the thinkers who gave expression to these themes, and to the wider numbers of people who are concerned with the connection of philosophic history to contemporary events. Therefore, I have avoided, as far as the subject allows, the use of technical jargon which could act as a barrier between the reader and a comprehension of what is read.

Materialism has been the favorite whipping-boy of institutional philosophy. The reasons for this will become plain as the reader progresses. Through an examination of Helvetius' thought, I hope to restore one more notch in the great history of materialist philosophy. In this task, the lucid comment made by Karl Marx: "In Helvetius materialism receives its real French character. He comprehended it at once in its relation to social life," has been the guiding theme of this essay from beginning to end.

To those who helped me discharge the dual responsibilities of content and form goes my deepest gratitude. It is my sincere wish that the generous cooperation and firm criticism of friends and associates is adequately reflected throughout the book. I would be remiss in my obligations if I failed to mention the great efforts made by my wife in ensuring the success of this book throughout its many phases. In conclusion, let me state that full responsibility for the work is mine alone.

I. L. H.

October 1, 1954 . . .

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