Friday, January 06, 2006

An Extremely Brief Survey of Modern and Contemporary Philosophies

I’ll just post these brief quotes taken from Dr. Nicholas Horvath’s compilation of important modern and contemporary philosophers. I’ll ruminate about them later. Feel free to add your ruminations to the mix. Descartes – instrumental in developing subjectivism – though also known as the father of existentialism. He denied that objective reality was knowable. The rigid separation of the physical and the mental postulated by the Cartesian system still affects modern Psychology. Agnosticism and Skepticism were two schools of thought that developed out of Cartesian doctrines. Berkeley, Locke, Hume – developed empiricism and placed primacy on the physical aspects of reality. This school of thought was detrimental to metaphysical scholarship that was originally formulated in Aristotelian principles of being and logic, also heavily used in the rationalism of Thomas Aquinas. “Empiricism over-emphasized sense knowledge and eventually led to the denial of the human intellect, or at least of an intellect distinct from sense knowledge. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume accepted this theory.” Intrinsicism or “Rotten Dogmatism” of Leibniz appeared on the scene with proponents like Spinoza who rejected the subjectivism of Descartes and the Empiricism of Hume. Beings qua beings had dogmatic value. Immanuel Kant – attempted to reconcile rationalism with empiricism, but ended up with idealism or “transcendental” philosophy that rejected axiomatic metaphysics. Kant’s phenomenalism created in a Copernican revolution of sorts in philosophy – he argued that the mind did not conform to reality, but that reality conformed to man’s mind. Thus, he said that the object depended upon the mind, not vice versa. The Kantian system logically led to the Deontological principle of duty and categorical imperatives. Man’s morality was bound by a sense of duty. Thus, the “morality of an act is not determined by the object… but by the pure intention of the acting subject.” Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill – stressed that human knowledge is restricted to the facts of experience; it is impossible for human beings to know anything beyond this. Nature, causes, and ends of beings are unknowable; therefore metaphysics does not have an object. This gave rise to logical positivists and pragmatists schools of thought. John Dewey – Pragmatist who also rejected the claims made by metaphysics that objective reality was knowable. Hence, Dewey pursued the practical and social aspects of philosophical speculation. Dewey advocated, in typical pragamatist tradition that " concepts have no absolute value; their only value depends on their practical consequences, inasmuch as they are instruments for transforming as imperfect situation into a new and better one." Georg Hegel – logically arising from the Kantian system, Hegel developed Idealism that simply rejected all reality beyond the thinking subject. Hegel reduced reality to the Spirit. The Whole was the Absolute and contained all of reality. Existents in reality were “thoughts” in the Consciousness of the Spirit, or the Whole. Hegel’s Absolute Idealism and dialecticism gave rise to parallel schools of Idealist Rationalism, Kierkegaard’s Existentialism and Marxist dialectic materialism. Marx – rejected the Idealism of Hegel and grounded the Whole into the collective consciousness of society. For Marx, individual freedom was attained by becoming merged into and one with the Whole of the Collective, such that there would be no more conflicts between separate entities, and all of history’s struggle will cease because of the seamless unity of the Whole. Jean-Paul Sartre – based on the prevailing philosophical mind-set the rejected reality as knowable, Sartre claimed that reality cannot be met on intellectual grounds, “but only through the risk involved in some agonizing crisis in the life of the individual.” Sartre concept of freedom meant the incompleteness of man and the nothingness facing men. Freedom is not rooted in reason but in the forlorn despair of a god-less existence. Accepting Nietzsche’s “God is dead” doctrine, Sartre viewed man as having no essence for existing, but exists just as is. “If there is no God, there is no built-in essence, no objective system of values, especially no determinism. Man is free; man is freedom; man is condemned to be free.” The morality for men rests on individual choice. Hence, there is no “objective morality”. Man is responsible for all other men in intersubjectivity because he must choose morality in accordance to what he thinks others would also choose. Therefore, “the act of choice must be accomplished with a sense of anguish”. “Man is rotten; his death is as vain as was his entry into being.” Wittgenstein and other logical positivists/neo-positivists – consider metaphysics as nothing more than a game of linguistic semantics. The “problems of philosophy” offer no solution to real life because they are basically meaningless. Hence, there is no philosophy.


Blogger Ergo Sum said...

... And then we have Rand - a little Russian woman challenging almost every foundational structure of Philosophy as erected by these men. Whoever heard of a female philosopher?!?

1/06/2006 11:49:00 AM  

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