Modern philosophy

Last updated

Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school (and thus should not be confused with Modernism ), although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy. [1]

Contents

The 17th and early 20th centuries roughly mark the beginning and the end of modern philosophy. How much of the Renaissance should be included is a matter for dispute; likewise modernity may or may not have ended in the twentieth century and been replaced by postmodernity. How one decides these questions will determine the scope of one's use of the term "modern philosophy."

Modern Western philosophy

How much of Renaissance intellectual history is part of modern philosophy is disputed: [2] the Early Renaissance is often considered less modern and more medieval compared to the later High Renaissance. By the 17th and 18th centuries the major figures in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and metaphysics were roughly divided into two main groups. The "Rationalists," mostly in France and Germany, argued all knowledge must begin from certain "innate ideas" in the mind. Major rationalists were Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Nicolas Malebranche. The "Empiricists," by contrast, held that knowledge must begin with sensory experience. Major figures in this line of thought are John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume (These are retrospective categories, for which Kant is largely responsible). Ethics and political philosophy are usually not subsumed under these categories, though all these philosophers worked in ethics, in their own distinctive styles. Other important figures in political philosophy include Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In the late eighteenth century Immanuel Kant set forth a groundbreaking philosophical system which claimed to bring unity to rationalism and empiricism. Whether or not he was right, he did not entirely succeed in ending philosophical dispute. Kant sparked a storm of philosophical work in Germany in the early nineteenth century, beginning with German idealism. The characteristic theme of idealism was that the world and the mind equally must be understood according to the same categories; it culminated in the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who among many other things said that "The real is rational; the rational is real."

Hegel's work was carried in many directions by his followers and critics. Karl Marx appropriated both Hegel's philosophy of history and the empirical ethics dominant in Britain, transforming Hegel's ideas into a strictly materialist form, setting the grounds for the development of a science of society. Søren Kierkegaard, in contrast, dismissed all systematic philosophy as an inadequate guide to life and meaning. For Kierkegaard, life is meant to be lived, not a mystery to be solved. Arthur Schopenhauer took idealism to the conclusion that the world was nothing but the futile endless interplay of images and desires, and advocated atheism and pessimism. Schopenhauer's ideas were taken up and transformed by Nietzsche, who seized upon their various dismissals of the world to proclaim "God is dead" and to reject all systematic philosophy and all striving for a fixed truth transcending the individual. Nietzsche found in this not grounds for pessimism, but the possibility of a new kind of freedom.

19th-century British philosophy came increasingly to be dominated by strands of neo-Hegelian thought, and as a reaction against this, figures such as Bertrand Russell and George Edward Moore began moving in the direction of analytic philosophy, which was essentially an updating of traditional empiricism to accommodate the new developments in logic of the German mathematician Gottlob Frege.

Renaissance philosophy

Renaissance humanism emphasized the value of human beings (see Oration on the Dignity of Man) and opposed dogma and scholasticism. This new interest in human activities led to the development of political science with The Prince of Niccolò Machiavelli. [3] Humanists differed from Medieval scholars also because they saw the natural world as mathematically ordered and pluralistic, instead of thinking of it in terms of purposes and goals. Renaissance philosophy is perhaps best explained by two propositions made by Leonardo da Vinci in his notebooks:

In a similar way, Galileo Galilei based his scientific method on experiments but also developed mathematical methods for application to problems in physics. These two ways to conceive human knowledge formed the background for the principle of Empiricism and Rationalism respectively. [4]

List of Renaissance philosophers:

Rationalism

Modern philosophy traditionally begins with René Descartes and his aphorism "I think, therefore I am". In the early seventeenth century the bulk of philosophy was dominated by Scholasticism, written by theologians and drawing upon Plato, Aristotle, and early Church writings. Descartes argued that many predominant Scholastic metaphysical doctrines were meaningless or false. In short, he proposed to begin philosophy from scratch. In his most important work, Meditations on First Philosophy , he attempts just this, over six brief essays. He tries to set aside as much as he possibly can of all his beliefs, to determine what if anything he knows for certain. He finds that he can doubt nearly everything: the reality of physical objects, God, his memories, history, science, even mathematics, but he cannot doubt that he is, in fact, doubting. He knows what he is thinking about, even if it is not true, and he knows that he is there thinking about it. From this basis he builds his knowledge back up again. He finds that some of the ideas he has could not have originated from him alone, but only from God; he proves that God exists. He then demonstrates that God would not allow him to be systematically deceived about everything; in essence, he vindicates ordinary methods of science and reasoning, as fallible but not false.

List of rationalist philosophers:

Empiricism

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge which opposes other theories of knowledge, such as rationalism, idealism and historicism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience as opposed to rationalism, which asserts that knowledge comes (also) from pure thinking. Both empiricism and rationalism are individualist theories of knowledge, whereas historicism is a social epistemology. While historicism also acknowledges the role of experience, it differs from empiricism by assuming that sensory data cannot be understood without considering the historical and cultural circumstances in which observations are made. Empiricism should not be mixed up with empirical research because different epistemologies should be considered competing views on how best to do studies, and there is near consensus among researchers that studies should be empirical. Today empiricism should therefore be understood as one among competing ideals of getting knowledge or how to do studies. As such empiricism is first and foremost characterized by the ideal to let observational data "speak for themselves", while the competing views are opposed to this ideal. The term empiricism should thus not just be understood in relation to how this term has been used in the history of philosophy. It should also be constructed in a way which makes it possible to distinguish empiricism among other epistemological positions in contemporary science and scholarship. In other words: Empiricism as a concept has to be constructed along with other concepts, which together make it possible to make important discriminations between different ideals underlying contemporary science.

Empiricism is one of several competing views that predominate in the study of human knowledge, known as epistemology. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition [5] in contrast to, for example, rationalism which relies upon reason and can incorporate innate knowledge.

List of empiricist philosophers:

Political philosophy

Political philosophy is the study of such topics as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: their nature and purpose; what (if anything) makes a government legitimate; what rights and freedoms (if any) it should protect and how and why it should do so; what duties (if any) citizens owe to a legitimate government; and when (if ever) it may be legitimately overthrown. In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, political belief or attitude, about politics that does not necessarily belong to the technical discipline of philosophy. [6]

List of political philosophers by country:

Idealism

Idealism refers to the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally a construct of the mind or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. [7] As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. [8] Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind. An extreme version of this idealism can exist in the philosophical notion of solipsism.

List of idealist philosophers:

Existentialism

Existentialism is generally considered to be the philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the individual and the experiences of the individual. Building on that, existentialists hold that moral thinking and scientific thinking together do not suffice to understand human existence, and, therefore, a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to understand human existence. [9] [10] [11]

List of existentialist philosophers:

Phenomenology

Phenomenology is the study of the structure of experience. It is a broad philosophical movement founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl, expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. The philosophy then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's early work. [12]

List of phenomenologist:

Pragmatism

Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice.[ citation needed ] Important positions characteristic of pragmatism include instrumentalism, radical empiricism, verificationism, conceptual relativity, and fallibilism.[ citation needed ] There is general consensus among pragmatists that philosophy should take the methods and insights of modern science into account. [13] Charles Sanders Peirce (and his pragmatic maxim) deserves most of the credit for pragmatism, [14] along with later twentieth century contributors William James and John Dewey. [13]

List of pragmatist philosophers:

Analytic philosophy

Analytic philosophy came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. In the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand, the overwhelming majority of university philosophy departments identify themselves as "analytic" departments. [15] The term generally refers to a broad philosophical tradition [16] [17] characterized by an emphasis on clarity and argument (often achieved via modern formal logic and analysis of language) and a respect for the natural sciences. [18] [19] [20]

List of analytic philosophers:

Modern Asian philosophy

Various philosophical movements in Asia arose in the modern period including:

Notes

  1. Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN   978-0-13-158591-1.
  2. Brian Leiter (ed.), The Future for Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 44 n. 2.
  3. "Niccolo Machiavelli | Biography, Books, Philosophy, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  4. "Western philosophy - Renaissance philosophy".
  5. Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN   978-0-13-158591-1.
  6. Hampton, Jean (1997). Political philosophy. p. xiii. ISBN   9780813308586. Charles Blattberg, who defines politics as "responding to conflict with dialogue," suggests that political philosophies offer philosophical accounts of that dialogue. See his Blattberg, Charles (2009). "Political Philosophies and Political Ideologies". SSRN   1755117.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) in Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009.
  7. Macionis, John J. (2012). Sociology 14th Edition . Boston: Pearson. p.  88. ISBN   978-0-205-11671-3.
  8. Daniel Sommer Robinson, "Idealism", Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/281802/idealism
  9. Mullarkey, John, and Beth Lord (eds.). The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy. London, 2009, p. 309
  10. Stewart, Jon. Kierkegaard and Existentialism. Farnham, England, 2010, p. ix
  11. Crowell, Steven (October 2010). "Existentialism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Retrieved 2012-04-12.
  12. Zahavi, Dan (2003), Husserl's Phenomenology, Stanford: Stanford University Press
  13. 1 2 Biesta, G.J.J. & Burbules, N. (2003). Pragmatism and educational research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
  14. Susan Haack; Robert Edwin Lane (11 April 2006). Pragmatism, old & new: selected writings. Prometheus Books. pp. 18–67. ISBN   978-1-59102-359-3 . Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  15. "Without exception, the best philosophy departments in the United States are dominated by analytic philosophy, and among the leading philosophers in the United States, all but a tiny handful would be classified as analytic philosophers. Practitioners of types of philosophizing that are not in the analytic tradition—such as phenomenology, classical pragmatism, existentialism, or Marxism—feel it necessary to define their position in relation to analytic philosophy." John Searle (2003) Contemporary Philosophy in the United States in N. Bunnin and E.P. Tsui-James (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, 2nd ed., (Blackwell, 2003), p. 1.
  16. See, e.g., Avrum Stroll, Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2000), p. 5: "[I]t is difficult to give a precise definition of 'analytic philosophy' since it is not so much a specific doctrine as a loose concatenation of approaches to problems." Also, see ibid., p. 7: "I think Sluga is right in saying 'it may be hopeless to try to determine the essence of analytic philosophy.' Nearly every proposed definition has been challenged by some scholar. [...] [W]e are dealing with a family resemblance concept."
  17. See Hans-Johann Glock, What Is Analytic Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 205: "The answer to the title question, then, is that analytic philosophy is a tradition held together both by ties of mutual influence and by family resemblances."
  18. Brian Leiter (2006) webpage “Analytic” and “Continental” Philosophy. Quote on the definition: "'Analytic' philosophy today names a style of doing philosophy, not a philosophical program or a set of substantive views. Analytic philosophers, crudely speaking, aim for argumentative clarity and precision; draw freely on the tools of logic; and often identify, professionally and intellectually, more closely with the sciences and mathematics, than with the humanities."
  19. H. Glock, "Was Wittgenstein an Analytic Philosopher?", Metaphilosophy, 35:4 (2004), pp. 419–444.
  20. Colin McGinn, The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey through Twentieth-Century Philosophy (HarperCollins, 2002), p. xi.: "analytical philosophy [is] too narrow a label, since [it] is not generally a matter of taking a word or concept and analyzing it (whatever exactly that might be). [...] This tradition emphasizes clarity, rigor, argument, theory, truth. It is not a tradition that aims primarily for inspiration or consolation or ideology. Nor is it particularly concerned with 'philosophy of life,' though parts of it are. This kind of philosophy is more like science than religion, more like mathematics than poetry – though it is neither science nor mathematics."

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epistemology</span> Branch of philosophy concerning knowledge

Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major subfields such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Empiricism</span> Epistemological theory

In philosophy, empiricism is an epistemological theory that holds that knowledge or justification comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views within epistemology, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasizes the central role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions arise due to relations of previous sensory experiences.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Idealism</span> Philosophical view

In philosophy, the term idealism identifies and describes metaphysical perspectives which assert that reality is indistinguishable and inseparable from human perception and understanding; that reality is a mental construct closely connected to ideas. Idealist perspectives are in two categories: subjective idealism, which proposes that a material object exists only to the extent that a human being perceives the object; and objective idealism, which proposes the existence of an objective consciousness that exists prior to and independently of human consciousness, thus the existence of the object is independent of human perception.

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pragmatism</span> Philosophical tradition

Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Analytic philosophy</span> 20th-century tradition of Western philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy using analysis, popular in the Western world and particularly the Anglosphere, which began around the turn of the 20th century in the contemporary era in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, and continues today. Analytic philosophy is often contrasted with continental philosophy, coined as a catch-all term for other methods prominent in Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">German philosophy</span> Specialty in philosophy, focussed to German language origin

German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">19th-century philosophy</span>

In the 19th century, the philosophers of the 18th-century Enlightenment began to have a dramatic effect on subsequent developments in philosophy. In particular, the works of Immanuel Kant gave rise to a new generation of German philosophers and began to see wider recognition internationally. Also, in a reaction to the Enlightenment, a movement called Romanticism began to develop towards the end of the 18th century. Key ideas that sparked changes in philosophy were the fast progress of science, including evolution, most notably postulated by Charles Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and theories regarding what is today called emergent order, such as the free market of Adam Smith within nation states, or the Marxist approach concerning class warfare between the ruling class and the working class developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Pressures for egalitarianism, and more rapid change culminated in a period of revolution and turbulence that would see philosophy change as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Continental philosophy</span> Philosophical traditions from mainland Europe

Continental philosophy is a term used to describe some philosophers and philosophical traditions that do not fall under the umbrella of analytic philosophy. However, there is no academic consensus on the definition of continental philosophy. Prior to the twentieth century, the term "continental" was used broadly to refer to philosophy from continental Europe. A different use of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School as well as branches of Freudian, Hegelian and Western Marxist views.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilfrid Sellars</span> American philosopher

Wilfrid Stalker Sellars was an American philosopher and prominent developer of critical realism, who "revolutionized both the content and the method of philosophy in the United States".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Absolute idealism</span> Type of idealism in metaphysics

Absolute idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy chiefly associated with G. W. F. Hegel and Friedrich Schelling, both of whom were German idealist philosophers in the 19th century. The label has also been attached to others such as Josiah Royce, an American philosopher who was greatly influenced by Hegel's work, and the British idealists.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to philosophy:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Errol Harris</span> American philosopher

Errol Eustace Harris, sometimes cited as E. E. Harris, was a South African philosopher. His work focused on developing a systematic and coherent account of the logic, metaphysics, and epistemology implicit in contemporary understanding of the world. Harris held that, in conjunction with empirical science, the Western philosophical tradition, in its commitment to the ideal of reason, contains the resources necessary to accomplish this end. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 2008.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philosophy</span> Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some sources claim the term was coined by Pythagoras ; others dispute this story, arguing that Pythagoreans merely claimed use of a preexisting term. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western philosophy</span> Philosophy of the Western world

Western philosophy encompasses the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with the ancient Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom" Ancient Greek: φιλεῖν phileîn, "to love" and σοφία sophía, "wisdom").

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American philosophy</span> Activity, corpus, and tradition of philosophers affiliated with the United States

American philosophy is the activity, corpus, and tradition of philosophers affiliated with the United States. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while it lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and shaping collective American identity over the history of the nation". The philosophy of the founders of the United States is largely seen as an extension of the European Enlightenment. A small number of philosophies are known as American in origin, namely pragmatism and transcendentalism, with their most prominent proponents being the philosophers William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson respectively.

Transcendental Humanism in philosophy considers humans as simultaneously the originator of meaning, and subject to a larger ultimate truth that exists beyond the human realm (transcendence). The philosophy suggests that the humanistic approach is guided by “accuracy, truth, discovery, and objectivity” that transcends or exists apart from subjectivity.

The following is a list of the major events in the history of German idealism, along with related historical events.

Dutch philosophy is a broad branch of philosophy that discusses the contributions of Dutch philosophers to the discourse of Western philosophy and Renaissance philosophy. The philosophy, as its own entity, arose in the 16th and 17th centuries through the philosophical studies of Desiderius Erasmus and Baruch Spinoza. The adoption of the humanistic perspective by Erasmus, despite his Christian background, and rational but theocentric perspective expounded by Spinoza, supported each of these philosopher's works. In general, the philosophy revolved around acknowledging the reality of human self-determination and rational thought rather than focusing on traditional ideals of fatalism and virtue raised in Christianity. The roots of philosophical frameworks like the mind-body dualism and monism debate can also be traced to Dutch philosophy, which is attributed to 17th century philosopher René Descartes. Descartes was both a mathematician and philosopher during the Dutch Golden Age, despite being from the Kingdom of France. Modern Dutch philosophers like D.H. Th. Vollenhoven provided critical analyses on the dichotomy between dualism and monism.