Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy: A History

Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy: A History

Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy: A History

Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy: A History

Excerpt

Prospective readers of a book have a right to know what they are invited to read, and few titles nowadays are so apt that they indicate with precision what a book is about. In the old days the title page of this volume would have read about as follows, with appropriate spacing and changes of type-face: Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy, being a Selection of those Philosophic Ideas which the Author believes to have recurred since the Fifteenth Century in Occidental Thought, as well as some which have established New Traditions, no attempt having been made to include all philosophers usually mentioned, if only briefly, in such works and little regard having been paid to traditional prejudices, the whole based upon a re-reading of Original Sources and the Whims of the Author.

Yet even so cumbersome a title would not have explained everything which makes this book what it is. In the first place, I do not believe that it is possible to write a history of philosophy which is not a history of philosophic problems. The word "philosophy," like the words "chemistry," "physics," or any other name for an intellectual discipline, is a label for a group of problems and traditional answers to them. A history of physics will be a history of how certain problems usually studied by physicists arose and were answered and of the methods employed to answer them. And a history of philosophy must be an account of how certain specific philosophic problems arose and of how they were answered. The selection of the problems is always a matter of the historian's interests and knowledge, and I can make no claim to having done more than select those which appear to me, after teaching the subject for thirty-five years, to stand out as the most frequently recurring questions or the most influential answers.

Consequently, the book cannot be used as a philosophical dictionary in which all names are listed in an index and in which, by . . .

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