The Columbia History of Western Philosophy

By Richard H. Popkin | Go to book overview

4
The Renaissance

BETWEEN OCKHAM AND DESCARTES

The term “Renaissance”—like “antiquity,” “Middle Ages,” “Reformation” and “Enlightenment”—is a celebrated name for a major epoch of the premodern West, but the same word has been less conspicuous in the history of Western philosophy. Histories of the subject often leap from William of Ockham to René Descartes (1596– 1650) with little or no account of what came between. Ockham's part in the story, whether his work was the culmination of medieval philosophy or its final crisis, is smaller but no less assured than the place given Descartes for having started a new kind of philosophy. Those who admire both thinkers or either will know that Descartes did not start where Ockham stopped. For anyone who believes that philosophy has a history, curiosity about Descartes should lead to questions about his proximate past, the postmedieval period that locates him as an actor in history. Where did Descartes find his motives, limits, and presuppositions? What were his starting points? Was there anything in his historical neighborhood to explain why he made so much of method, certainty, atomism, and subjectivity, so little of Aristotle and the classics? Can one understand his scepticism without the doubts of Michel de Montaigne and Sextus Empiricus; his mechanism without the atoms of Giordano Bruno and Lucretius; his method without Petrus Ramus and Quintilian; his abandonment of classicism without the classics he abandoned; his break with Aristotle without the classicized Aristotle he learned at La Flèche; his subjectivism without the Spiritual Exercises of the Jesuits who taught him there? If some find the answers plain, they

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The Columbia History of Western Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Columbia History of Western Philosophy *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Contributors xxi
  • The Columbia History of Western Philosophy *
  • 1 - Origins of Western Philosophic Thinking 1
  • 2 - Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy 140
  • 3 - Medieval Christian Philosophy 219
  • 4 - The Renaissance 279
  • 5 - Seventeenth-Century Philosophy 329
  • 6 - Eighteenth-Century Philosophy 422
  • 7 - Nineteenth-Century Philosophy 516
  • 8 - Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy 604
  • 9 - Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy 667
  • Epilogue 755
  • Epilogue - On the History of Philosophy 757
  • Index of Names 779
  • Index of Subject 801
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