The Revolt against Dualism: An Inquiry concerning the Existence of Ideas

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

I CARTESIAN DUALISM AND NATURAL DUALISM

I PROPOSE in these lectures to review the course and to attempt to estimate the results of a movement of thought which has been, on the whole, the most characteristic and most ambitious philosophic effort of our generation in the English- speaking part of the world. The last quarter-century, it may fairly confidently be predicted, will have for future historians of philosophy a distinctive interest and instructiveness as the Age of the Great Revolt against Dualism; though it is possible that they may prefer to describe this uprising as a phase of a wider Revolt of the Twentieth Century against the Seventeenth. We approach the tercentenary of the earliest writings of Galileo and Descartes; and the occasion is being joyously celebrated in several quarters by the issuance of declarations of independence directed against those thinkers. For they and a few of their contemporaries forged a scheme of ideas which--as it is now the fashion to say, not altogether untruly--has bound the minds of reflective men, and especially of men of science, ever since. The great physicist- philosophers of that grand siécle have been described by M. Meyerson as "the legislators of modern science"; more precisely, they were the framers of, at least, its constitutional law; and although there have been many amendments to the instrument they drafted, and occasional local insurrections against its authority, it is only in our own generation--or so, at all events, some of our own generation enthusiastically assure us--that there has developed a really thorough-going philosophical radicalism which proposes to discard that constitution altogether, and is at the same time provided with the draft of a new one constructed on wholly different principles---or, as it would perhaps be more accurate to say, with several new ones, constructed on principles differing from one another hardly less than from those which they are to supersede. From many sides may now be heard the rallying-cries of groups inspired by highly diverse motives to attack the common enemy-- and there are not wanting resounding proclamations that the

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