Download Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Leibnitz by Frederick Copleston PDF

By Frederick Copleston

Conceived initially as a major presentation of the improvement of philosophy for Catholic seminary scholars, Frederick Copleston's nine-volume A heritage Of Philosophy has journeyed some distance past the modest goal of  its writer to common acclaimas the easiest background of philosophy in English.

Copleston, an Oxford Jesuit of vast erudition who as soon as tangled with A.J. Ayer in a fabled debate in regards to the life of God and the potential for metaphysics, knew that seminary scholars have been fed a woefully insufficient vitamin of theses and proofs, and that their familiarity with such a lot of history's nice thinkers used to be diminished to simplistic caricatures.  Copleston got down to redress the inaccurate by means of writing a whole background of Western philosophy, one crackling with incident and highbrow pleasure - and person who offers complete position to every philosopher, proposing his idea in a fantastically rounded demeanour and exhibiting his hyperlinks to those that got here after him.

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Sample text

1 There is only one kind of knowledge, certain and evident knowledge. And ultimately there is only one science, though it possesses interconnected branches. Hence there can be only one scientific method. This notion that all sciences are ultimately one science or, rather, organically connected branches of one science, which is identified with human wisdom or understanding, constitutes, of course, a major assumption. But the full proof of its validity, Descartes might say, cannot be given in advance.

If Descartes and Locke can be regarded as the dominating figures in the thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that of the nineteenth century is dominated by Kant. To speak in this way is, indeed, to be guilty of oversimplification. To imagine that all the philosophers of the nineteenth century were Kantians would be as erroneous as to suppose that the philosophers of the eighteenth century were all either Cartesians or followers of Locke. Yet just as Descartes' influence on the development of continental rationalism and Locke's influence on the development of British empiricism are both beyond doubt, even though Spinoza and Leibniz on the Continent and Berkeley and Hume in England were all original thinkers, so is Kant's influence on nineteenth-century thought undeniable, even though Hegel, for example, was a great thinker of marked originality who cannot be classed as a 'Kantian'.

For instance, 'when they [the Scholastics] distinguish substance from extension or quantity, either they mean nothing by the word substance or they simply form in their minds a confused idea of incorporeal substance which they falsely attribute to corporeal substance'. 1 For confused ideas Descartes would substitute clear and distinct ideas. Descartes, indeed, attached little value to historical learning or to book-learning in general. And in view of this fact it is not surprising that his strictures on Aristotelianism and Scholasticism were based on the impression made on him by a decadent Aristotelianism and by what may be called a textbook Scholasticism rather than on any profound study of the great thinkers of the Greek and mediaeval periods.

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