By Frederick C. Copleston
Conceived initially as a major presentation of the advance of philosophy for Catholic seminary scholars, Frederick Copleston's nine-volume A historical past Of Philosophy has journeyed some distance past the modest function of its writer to common acclaimas the easiest background of philosophy in English.Copleston, an Oxford Jesuit of giant erudition who as soon as tangled with A.J. Ayer in a fabled debate in regards to the lifestyles of God and the potential for metaphysics, knew that seminary scholars have been fed a woefully insufficient nutrition of theses and proofs, and that their familiarity with such a lot of history's nice thinkers used to be decreased to simplistic caricatures. Copleston got down to redress the incorrect via writing an entire background of Western philosophy, one crackling with incident and highbrow pleasure - and one who supplies complete position to every philosopher, providing his proposal in a fantastically rounded demeanour and displaying his hyperlinks to people who got here after him.
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Extra resources for A History of Philosophy, Vol. 4: Modern Philosophy From Descartes to Leibniz
The use of the right method could make metaphysical philosophy, and even ethics, a science in the fullest sense of the word instead of a field for verbal wrangling, unclarified ideas, faulty reasoning and mutually incompatible conclusions. The personal element could be eliminated, and philosophy would possess the characteristics of universal, necessary and impersonal truth which is possessed b y pure mathematics. Such considerations, as will be seen later, weighed heavily with Descartes. It is commonly maintained today that pure mathematics as such does not give us factual information about the world.
The influence of mediaeval philosophy on the rationalist systems of the pre-Kantian era is sufficiently obvious. For instance, all three philosophers utilize the category of substance. At the same time the idea of substance undergoes equally obvious changes. With Descartes material substance is identified with geometrical extension, a theory which is foreign to mediaeval thought, while Leibniz tries to give an essentially dynamic interpretation to the concept of substance. Again, though the idea of God plays an integral part in the systems of all three thinkers, we can see, in the philosophies of Spinoza and Leibniz at any rate, a tendency to eliminate the idea of personal and voluntary creation.
But a few words on the subject may serve to give the reader some preliminary, if necessarily inadequate, idea of the scheme of development which will be treated more at length in the chapters devoted to individual philosophers. We have already seen that Descartes affirmed the existence of two different types of substances, spiritual and material. In this sense of the word he can be called a dualist. B u t he was not a INTRODUCTION ii dualist in the sense that he postulated two ultimate, independent ontological principles.