TORRE DE BABEL EDICIONES

Philosophy, Psychology

and Humanities Web Site


 

A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER - 1922 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire.
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.

 

A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos
Fénelon

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

 

INTRODUCTION

Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY


Its origin and character

PHYSICAL PERIOD
MONASTIC THEORIES
PLURALISTIC THEORIES

MORAL PERIOD
THE SOPHISTS
SOCRATES. Cynics and Cyrenaics

SYSTEMATIC PERIOD
PLATO
ARISTOTLE

Part II. PHILOSOPHY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

ETHICAL THEORIES
Stoicism. Epicureanism
Scepticism

RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES
Roman Moralists: Seneca, Epictetus, M. Aurelius
Alexandrian Mystics: Philo, Plotinus, Proclus

Part III. PHILOSOPHY OF MIDDLE AGES

THE PATRISTIC PERIOD Augustine and Church Fathers

SCHOLASTIC PERIOD Nominalism and Realism

PLATONIC INFLUENCE
Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard

ARISTOTELIAN INFLUENCE
1. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas
2. Duns Scotus, Francis of Assisi, William of Occam
 

Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY

TRANSITION PERIOD
1. Revival of Learning
2. Reformation
3. Rise of Sciences
Bruno, Böhme, Montaigne

REALISTIC TENDENCY
Bacon
Gassendi
Hobbes

IDEALISTIC TENDENCY
Descartes

PANTHEISTIC TENDENCY
Geulinx, Occasionalism
Malebranche, Pantheism
Spinoza, Acosmism

Part V. PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

[Introduction]

SECT. I. ENLIGHTENMENT IN BRITAIN
Empiricism-Locke
Development of empiricism-Berkeley
Sceptical Conclusion-Hume

THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Natural Philosophy
Theological Controversy
Ethical Theories
Scottish Philosophy

SECT. 2. ENLIGHTENMENT IN FRANCE
Earlier Rationalism
Bossuet, Fontenelle, Bayle, Montesquieu, Condillac, Helvetius
Materialistic Tendencies
Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert,  La Mettrie, Holbach, Rousseau

SECT. 3. ENLIGHTENMENT IN GERMANY
INDIVIDUAL IDEALISM—LEIBNITZ

FOLLOWERS OF LEIBNITZ
Thomasius, Tschirnhausen, Wolff

POPULAR PHILOSOPHY
Mendelssohn, Nicolai
Lessing

Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM


SECT. I. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY—KANT
INTRODUCTION

KANT'S THEORETIC PHILOSOPHY

KANT'S MORAL PHILOSOPHY

PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND RELIGION

SECT. 2. DEVELOPMENT OF IDEALISM

PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING
Hamann, Herder, Jacobi
Schiller and Humboldt

SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM—FICHTE
1. Science of Knowledge
2. Its Theoretic Principles
3. Its Practical Sphere

OBJECTIVE IDEALISM—SCHELLING
1. Philosophy of Nature
2. Philosophy of Identity
3. Mythology and Revelation

ROMANTIC SCHOOL
1. Novalis and Schlegel
2. Baader and Krause
3. Schleiermacher

 

SECT. 3. ABSOLUTE IDEALISM—HEGELIANISM
CONCEPTION AND METHOD
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
REACTION AGAINST HEGELIANISM
1. Herbart
2. Beneke
3. Schopenhauer

Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT


GERMAN THOUGHT—AFTER HEGEL
1. Influence of Hegelianism
2. Materialistic Tendency—Haeckel
3. Idealistic Tendency
Fechner, Lotze, Hartmann, Wundt
4. Modern Psychology
5. Neo-Kantianism
Dühring, Schuppe, Ritschl
6. Eucken and Activist Tendency

FRENCH THOUGHT—FROM THE REVOLUTION
1. Cousin and Eclecticism
2. Comte and Positivism
3. Religious Philosophy
4. Philosophy of Development—Taine, Renan, Fouillée

BRITISH PHILOSOPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
1. Utilitarianism—Bentham and Mill
2. Evolution—Darwin and Spencer. Maurice, Newman, Martineau
3. Influence of German Idealism. Caird, Green, Bradley, etc.

THE TREND OF THOUGHT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Anti-Conceptualism—Bergson
Pragmatism—Wm. James
Neo-Realism. Revival of Idealism in Italy. The Philosophy of the Gifford Lectures

 

CONCLUSION

 

BOOKS OF REFERENCE

 

Part V. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT - Sect. 1. British Enlightenment

Chap. II. Development of Empiricism: Berkeley

The position at which Locke had arrived in his doctrine of knowledge was, as we have seen, untenable, involving as it did an impassable gulf between the external world and the mind. It was inevitable, therefore, that the consequences which his theory suggested, but did not state, should be developed by his successors.

Although Locke had assumed a real world outside our minds, he maintained that we could not know that world. Our knowledge could reach no further than our sensations, and consisted not in the agreement of our ideas with things, but simply of our ideas with one another. If this be so, it is an obvious inconsistency to attribute to the external world a substantial objective reality. If the mind is simply a piece of blank paper on which our sensations are written, and we can know nothing beyond these sensations, then the notion of an external substance must be declared to be a merely subjective conception. This was the conclusion which Berkeley drew, and which Hume carried out to its rigid consequences.

George Berkeley, the immediate disciple of Locke, was born in Kilcrin, in Ireland, in 1684. He was a man of extraordinary intellectual ability, and of exquisite purity and generosity of character. In his twenty-fourth year he published his New Theory of Vision, and the year after, his Principles of Human Knowledge, which, by their novelty of conception and lucidity of style, made a profound impression.

 

In 1713 he went to London, where he became acquainted with the brilliant literary circle of the age—Addison, Swift, Steele, Pope, and others. His paradoxes with regard to the non-existence of matter, as popularly understood, exposed him to the ridicule of the wits of the time. But though, as Pope wrote, "coxcombs vanquish Berkeley with a grin," the lovableness and charm of his personality disarmed hostility.

After some time spent in travel, during which he met Malebranche, he returned to England and set about carrying out the great project of his life—the conversion of the North American savages. On this expedition he actually set out, but the promise which Parliament made was not fulfilled, and he had eventually to relinquish an enterprise in which he had embarked his whole worldly means. He was ultimately made Bishop of Cloyne, in Ireland, and he spent the remainder of his days in the duties of his diocese and the pursuits of study.

Of his numerous writings, we may mention, besides those we have already named, the Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, a philosophical converse in which Hylas represents the views of the materialists, while Philonous gives expression to his own opinions.

The aim of Berkeley's writings was practical rather than theoretic. He wrote as the champion of orthodox Christianity against the "mathematical atheism" of his age. He found practical immorality excusing itself by a theory of materialism which made the whole conscious experience of man dependent upon "unperceiving matter." He thought, therefore, that the doctrine of Locke had only to be made consistent with itself in order to dispel the cloud which hid the spiritual world. Hence, in the interests of religion, he sought to get rid of that "unknown something" which philosophers had assumed as the cause of our sensations. His first task, therefore, was to expose the self-contradictory supposition that ideas are either copies of matter or its effects.

The philosophy of Berkeley takes thus a twofold form—a negative and a positive. First, he seeks to prove that the material world does not exist independently of the mind that perceives it; and then he proceeds to show that only ideas and the percipient spirits to whom they belong have reality, and that, finally, God, the supreme Spirit, is at once the cause and guarantee of our ideas and their association with one another.

(1) Unreality of Material things. The opening words of his Principles of Human Knowledge state the problem and sum up his whole position. "It is evident to any one who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or, lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination. . . . But besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations, as willing, imagining, remembering, about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call Mind, Spirit, Soul, or Myself. . . . That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what everybody will allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations, or ideas, imprinted on the senses, however blended or combined together, cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them."

Let us not blindly accept the current notions about existence. Let us ask what we mean when we speak of something being "real," and when we apply such words as "exist," "external," "substantial," to what we see and touch. It must not be assumed that Berkeley doubted the reality of the outward world, and it was no refutation of his argument to challenge him to run his head against a stone wall. What he did deny was the existence of that unknown substratum, that abstract substance, which philosophers assume to underlie all phenomena and in which all accidents were supposed to adhere. He would have said, "I, not less than you, believe in what I see and feel, but what I deny is, that there is anything else than what I see and feel. This unknown something is a mere abstraction which has no reality." Let us find out what matter really is. When we reflect on what is given in experience, we can discover no independent substance or originating power. All we know is our own sensations—certain sights, sounds, tastes, etc. I am also conscious of my own identity. I know that it is I who have these sensations. Beyond that we are not conscious of anything. When we say we see or touch a material object, all we can mean is that we perceive ideas which have for us a practical meaning in so far as pleasure or pain depends on them. The table I write upon exists, while I see and feel it. If I were out of my study I should still say it existed, meaning that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. A sound is heard, a colour or figure is perceived that is all I can assert. As to what is said as to the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived—that is, Berkeley affirms, perfectly unintelligible. To be is to be perceived,—'their esse is their percipi'; nor is it possible that they should have any existence out of the minds of thinking things which perceive them.

"All the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word, all these bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind— their being is to be perceived and known." The immaterialism of the external world is the thesis of Berkeley.

The assumption that there is an actual world underlying our sensations is based, Berkeley tells us, on the universal but equally false supposition that we have such things as universal abstract ideas. We deceive ourselves by taking words for ideas and assuming that general notions separate from actual concrete facts exist. Abstract ideas do not exist. They do not exist even in the mind, still less do they exist in the nature of things.

But if it be suggested that though the ideas themselves do not exist without a mind to think them, yet may there not be things like them, of which they are copies or resemblances? But, answers Berkeley, an idea can only be like an idea. A colour or figure is like nothing but another colour or another figure. Outward material objects, if we could fancy such, could not create or shape inner spiritual ideas, for that would be to imply that the mind was not only passive, but material.

Again, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities which Locke established, does not alter the case, for what is tine of extension and impenetrability is also true of the secondary or inferred qualities of colour and taste. The one kind of quality is not more real than the other; both exist solely in the mind which perceives them.

But, once more, it may be said, the essence of matter is not the qualities but a substratum which lies behind them and supports them. The qualities may, indeed, be only subjective ideas, but surely there is a substantial existence which these qualities imply. But, says Berkeley, if we abstract from a cherry all the qualities which can be perceived through any of the senses, what is left ? Nothing. Locke had already admitted that "substance" was "a something, we know not what." This unknown something neither acts nor thinks, neither perceives nor is perceived. What, then, is that which is entirely made up of negatives? Surely a nonentity, a thing unthinkable, utterly useless, and incapable of being known.

(2) Spiritual Beings alone real. But, now, it may be asked, do we know nothing beyond our fleeting ideas? Yes, in addition to our ideas we know ourselves. These ideas belong to Me. They are in my mind. I have a sense of distinction between me and my ideas. They are fleeting, various; the mind possesses a sense of order, constancy, and coherence, which at once gives to my mind an independent existence, and to my ideas, connection and orderliness. "Besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remembering about them." This substance which supports and perceives ideas cannot itself be an idea; for while ideas are passive, this is active. "All the unthinking objects of the mind agree in that they are entirely passive, and their existence consists only in their being perceived, whereas a soul or spirit is an active being, whose existence consists, not in being perceived, but in perceiving ideas and thinking." So then we know nothing but spirits and their ideas, and their distinction is that the former are active, thinking substances, while the latter are inert, fleeting, and dependent things, which subsist not by themselves, but are supported by the mind or spiritual substance which thinks them.

(3) God the Author of Ideas. But now the further question arises, whence come those ideas? We have seen that they are not caused by outward material things. They are not copies or effects of some unknown material substance. Nor are they the creations of our own mind. They are not the product of our will. They are not the creations of our phantasy, nor are they objects of caprice or illusion. They follow in an orderly train and succession. They are vivid, lively, and clear. If, then, we do not produce these ideas ourselves, they must have a cause outside of us. That cause must be a willing and thinking being, for without will it could not be active and operative upon men, and without having ideas of its own it would be incapable of communicating any to my mind. On account of the variety and order of our sensations, this being must also possess infinite power and intelligence, it must be able to control all spirits at the same time and suggest the same ideas simultaneously to different and endless varieties of minds. This being, then, must be God. The connected whole of these God-created ideas we call nature, and the constant sequence of their succession, the laws of nature. In the immutability of the Divine working and in the uniform harmony and plan of creation we detect the wisdom and goodness of the Almighty more surely than in sudden and exceptional acts. When we hear a man speak we may infer his existence. How much less should we doubt the being of God, who is speaking to us through the manifold works of nature. Those ideas which God imprints upon our spirits are the archetypes of His own eternal ideas.

In Berkeley's system it will be seen that everything is reduced to ideas and their relations. But these relations are not necessary relations, they do not flow from the nature of things. Berkeley eliminates all causality from the external world, and only admits relation of co-existence, or of constant succession, between phenomena, i.e. ideas. The laws of nature are merely rules in accordance with which God excites ideas in us. The changes in the material world form a kind of language which expresses the thoughts of the Divine Mind. The relation of ideas is only learned by experience, which gives to us "a sort of foresight which enables us to regulate our actions for the benefit of life."

 

The ultimate function of philosophy is the study of divine wisdom as revealed in the laws of nature. Will is the sole form of activity. As motion is determined by outward impulse, so will is determined by ends. In spite of his empiricism and individualism Berkeley sees a teleological purpose in the world.

A large part of his two chief works is occupied with showing the simplicity of his system and its fundamental agreement with religion, as well as with common sense. As the "doctrine of matter has been the main pillar of scepticism," so his theory of pure idealism is, he holds, the best safeguard against atheism.

It is true we can never know God as He is, for our ideas, which are non-active, or, at best, but imperfectly active, can never fully represent Him, who is pure activity. At the same time, we may know God as we know our own and other spirits. We have no ideas of these, for we only know an object through its manifestations. We have, however, what Berkeley calls a "notion" of them. The existence of God may likewise be deduced from His effects. He produces the ideas He creates in us.

It will be seen that in his anxiety to be rid of the world of matter, Berkeley ends by practically denying the world of spirits as well. For if all we know is our isolated feelings or ideas, which are inactive, we naturally ask how we can discover among them that permanent order and sequence which, according to Berkeley, is the revelation of God? If we deny all constructive power to our ideas, how can we bind our sensations together and refer them, as he does, to a thinking subject? Wherein consists the connection between the Self and its ideas? How, in other words, can we ever reach any reality by such a theory, except the existence of our fleeting sensations?

Still further, if the connection between the thinking subject and its ideas is denied, or at least not provided for, how can we attain to the knowledge of any other spirits or realities outside our own personality? In order to meet this difficulty, Berkeley finds it necessary to state that though in a strict sense the mind can possess nothing but ideas, "we may be said to have some knowledge or notion of spirits and active beings." In other words, Berkeley has to resort to an accommodation in order to supplement his theory—an external reference or "notion" to bridge over the difference between self and other spirits. The idea of substance, from which Berkeley has freed himself on the material side, still binds him on the other, the immaterial side, and forces him into illogical conclusions. If true being consist only on being perceived, how can my consciousness assume the existence of beings distinct from myself, but able like me to think, imagine, and will? How can I ascribe reality to them, or even to the Deity, since I have no assurance of their existence save from my own thought? Like his predecessors, Malebranche and others, Berkeley is obliged to bring in the thought of the Deity as the true author of all our mental processes.

At the same time, we must recognise in Berkeley a keen opponent of materialism, and his merit consists in being one of the earliest to give a clear utterance to the fundamental truth of idealism, and to show that the world is, after all, ours only as we can think it.

Modern philosophy. Empiricism. Locke                                                Modern philosophy. Empiricism. Hume

 

 

© TORRE DE BABEL EDICIONES - Edition: Isabel Blanco  - Legal notice and privacy policy