Adventures in Philosophy

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Introductory Essays
Philosophy and the History of Philosophy
Philosophy in Perspective
Philosophy and Common Sense
Background Essays
The Roots of Philosophy
The Emergence of Philosophy
Philosophy and Science
Philosophy and Life
Metaphysics and Its Problems

Adventures in Philosophy is a section of The Radical Academy devoted to a brief history of philosophic thought from its beginnings in ancient Greece down to the present day. It is divided into four periods: Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, and Recent Philosophy and separate sections for American Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, Jewish Philosophy, Political Philosophy, and Eastern Philosophy. The historical periods do not necessarily follow the dating given by professional historians and periods may overlap; they are merely convenient division points.

Each period is divided into smaller periods which emphasize some common philosophic denominator. While the thinking of individual philosophers is emphasized, there are sections giving transitional information so that their ideas are seen against a cultural background and are related to events contemporary to their lives.

The discussion of a philosopher or a philosophic school may include:

  • A short biography of the philosopher or the philosophic school
  • A list of works by the philosopher
  • A list of works by the philosopher available on the Internet
  • General remarks about the philosopher or school
  • The main philosophical questions the philosopher or school is concerned with
  • The particular doctrine of the philosopher or school
  • A critical analysis of the position of the philosopher or school
  • How the philosopher or school fits into the philosophic stream of thought

One of the unique features of this brief history of philosophy is a section at the end of many of the discussions called "Positive Contributions of (the philosopher or philosophic school) to the Perennial Philosophy." It is here that one sees how a thinker or school of thinkers fits into the Realistic stream of philosophy or has been antithetical to it.


Academy Showcase Specials

Introduction: Philosophy and the History of Philosophy

Philosophy is an edifice -- the highest and most stable edifice -- of human reason, which moves from the firm foundation of experience and rises to the ultimate cause to justify that same experience.

In an abstract or absolute sense, philosophy could be realized by healthy and efficient human reason confronted with the riddle of the world and of life, without tortuous twistings and turnings to reach its goal. The history of philosophy shows us, however, that the system of philosophy, as in the case of all great human values, is not obtained save through a gradual, painstaking process. To explain or expound this slow, gradual process through which human thought has constructed its philosophy piece by piece -- not always advancing -- is the office of the history of philosophy.

The historical development of philosophy has come about particularly through four great successive civilizations: Indian, Classic, Christian, and Modern. These differ from one another in the solutions which they have offered to explain the problem of life.

Indian philosophy has had little influence on Western civilization and is not presently included in this outline-history. We who wish to know the elements which have constructed the civilization in which we take pride, will begin our study with the exposition of the story of Classic civilization (history of Greek philosophy) and then pass on to a consideration of Christian and Modern civilization, expounding the principal systems of each.

But it is licit to ask oneself: "From what point should a history of philosophy begin its exposition?" To begin with, absolutely speaking, we should say that the history of philosophy opens with the first appearance of man upon earth. Every man, in whatsoever time and place he lives, cannot but ask himself: "Why do I live on this earth?" and attempt to give some answer to the question. For this reason it is said that man is naturally philosophical, and that he is philosophizing even when he believes that he is not and even when he denies the existence of philosophy.

In this outline-history, however, we will begin our history of philosophy at that point in history when philosophy is manifested as a knowing and reflective activity, critical and systematic. Hence we must leave primitive civilizations because they are not related to a critical and systematic exposition of philosophic doctrine.

In an objective exposition of a philosophic system of history, it is necessary to keep in mind the ideas and not the men who have conceived them. This is because the object of history is the ideas, the theoretical element, and not the sentiments or moral intentions of the philosophers.

It is useful to call attention to the fact that no one should expect to find actual progress in every unraveling of philosophical thought. It is true that every philosophical system indicates a development, an actuation. But that is not to say that every development and every actuation is for the better.

There is also development toward error, which indicates retrogression rather than progress. Hence it is not necessary to affirm a priori that every system which succeeds another is of necessity better than the preceding.

Progress is a fact which must be ascertained a posteriori -- by examination and comparison -- after one has evaluated the system in question in regard to what is the end of philosophy; the knowledge of absolute reality, the solution of the problem of life.

Finally, let us note that the duty of the historian of philosophy is to reconstruct objectively the thought of the philosopher, whatever it may be, prescinding from its theoretical value or truth. Only after such work is done in reconstruction will it be possible to pass to external criticism.

The history of philosophy contains philosophy, but it also contains error, for history does not always relate signs of progress, but often recounts regression as well. History hence should be complemented by an external criticism, which judges the validity or value of every system with reference to the essentially philosophical problem: the value of life.


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