Philosophy and the Modern World

Philosophy and the Modern World

Philosophy and the Modern World

Philosophy and the Modern World

Excerpt

The present book, as the title indicates, is an attempt to study the chief philosophical ideas which have been produced by, and in turn have influenced, the modern mind. "Ideas," said Auguste Comte, "rule the world, or throw it into chaos." Here are the conceptions, brilliantly originated, deeply pondered, carefully elaborated, which are the ruling notions lying behind our contemporary civilization. Whether they are primarily the agencies of order, or of destruction, lies with the judgment of the future.

These ideas illuminate both the intellect and the spirit of the West. For ideas are at once theories and alternatives, ideals and programs. They express not only the facts of our perception, but our hierarchies of importance and our sense of the worth of life. In figures like Freud, Lenin, Dewey, and Sartre, this is clear upon the surface, but I think it holds no less for the mentality of logic and exact science. I have, therefore, ventured to speak of the inspiration of Russell and Carnap as the "passion" for logic, and of the specialist aims of Moore and Wittgenstein as the "lure" of the part. If this is paradoxical, it is not meant to be invidious.

The area of my concern is limited. It stretches in space from Chicago to Moscow, and in time from the publication of Bergson's Time and Free Will in 1889 to the publication of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investgations in 1954. But two qualifications must be added. First, I have not meant to be chronologically exact. Second, for reasons detailed in the first chapter, my conception of "philosophical ideas" is broader and more catholic than what the Europeans call "reine Philosophie." For those who are interested in present-day philosophical "schools of thought," Chapters VIII-XI detail the insights respectively of contemporary Pragmatism, Positivism, Existentialism, and Linguistic Analysis. Concerning those who are pure philosophers, but whose work overflows the narrow classification of the schools, there are the chapters on Bergson and Whitehead. But even beyond this, there is an area of the contemporary history of ideas which, although not technically, is indeed in . . .

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