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Order a copy Copyright or permission restrictions may apply. A woman philosopher of the Ancient period is Hipparchia the Cynic, who flourished around B. The tradition started by Socrates and Plato , which was to remain as the most important overall tradition in Western philosophy, had a strong idealistic bent in that it emphasized the importance of ideas and the spirit over material existence, as well as the human ability to reach absolute truth.

Combined with the beliefs of theism , particularly Christianity, it would in the following centuries take on many different shapes but remain as the fundamental tradition in western thought. This current of thought was nevertheless increasingly challenged by forms of thought emphasizing skepticism , materialism , and pragmatism , culminating in movements such as positivism and scientism. Medieval philosophy is the philosophy of Western Europe and the Middle East during what is now known as the medieval era or the Middle Ages , roughly extending from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance period.

Medieval philosophy is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed by Greeks and Romans in the classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine in Christianity and Judaism and secular learning.


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  • Many of the early Christian philosophers took as their starting point the theories of Plato and later Aristotle. Augustine of Hippo remains as the greatest representative of early Christian thought. The philosophers in the scholastic Christian tradition and philosophers in the other major Abrahamic religions , such as the Jewish philosopher Maimonides and the Muslim philosophers Avicenna , Al-Ghazali , and Averroes , were intercommunicative. A female Christian philosopher of the period was a student of Abelard named Heloise.

    Another was Hildegard von Bingen who, besides her accomplishments in music, healing, and spirituality was also an important religious thinker and leader. Some problems discussed throughout this period are the relation of faith to reason , the existence and unity of God , the object of theology and metaphysics , the problems of knowledge, of universals, and of individuation.

    History of Western Philosophy

    An important debate was that of Realism vs. Classically, realism is the doctrine that abstract entities corresponding to universal terms like 'man' have a real existence. It is opposed to nominalism, the view that abstract or universal terms are words only, or denote mental states such as ideas, beliefs, or intentions. The latter position, famously held by William of Ockham , is called 'conceptualism'. Medieval philosophy had been concerned primarily with argument from authority and the analysis of ancient texts using Aristotelian logic. The Renaissance saw an outpouring of new ideas that questioned authority.

    Roger Bacon ? Francis Bacon wrote in favor of the methods of science in philosophical discovery. Modern philosophy is usually considered to begin with the revival of skepticism and the genesis of modern physical science. Chronologically, this era spans the 17th and 18th centuries, and is generally considered to end with Kant 's systematic attempt to reconcile Leibniz and Hume.

    It meant a clear-cut break with traditional dogmatism and empiricism, the philosophical justification of scientific certainty on the level of phenomena, and a degree of agnosticism as far as ultimate matters God, eternal life were concerned. Later modern philosophy is usually considered to begin after the philosophy of Immanuel Kant at the beginning of the 19th-century. German idealists , Fichte , Hegel , and Schelling , expanded on the work of Kant by maintaining that the world is rational. Unlike Kant, they believed that the Absolute Reality was knowable and they produced elaborate speculative systems.

    Rejecting idealism, other philosophers, many working from outside the university, initiated lines of thought that would occupy academic philosophy in the early and mid-twentieth century:. In the last hundred years, philosophy has increasingly become an activity practiced within the modern research university, and accordingly it has grown more specialized and more distinct from the natural sciences.

    Much philosophy in this period concerns itself with explaining the relation between the theories of the natural sciences and the ideas of the humanities or common sense. It is arguable that later modern philosophy ended with contemporary philosophy's shift of focus from nineteenth century philosophers to twentieth century philosophers. Philosophers such as Heidegger , the later Wittgenstein , and Dewey , opened a type of philosophical discourse that would usher in post-modernism and its rejection of all foundationalism the belief that it is possible to reach an ultimate foundation of knowledge , as exemplified by thinkers such as Derrida, Quine , Michel Foucault , and Rorty.

    The late modern period in philosophy, beginning in the late nineteenth century and lasting into the s, was marked by a developing schism between the "Continental" European tradition and the "Analytic" tradition associated with English-speaking countries. The split between these two currents can be seen as the continuation of the division between continental rationalism and British Empiricism. The two traditions appear radically different, yet they have a common root. Both reject the Cartesian and empiricist traditions that had dominated philosophy since the early modern period, and both also reject the "obsession with psychological explanation " that pervaded the logic and method of idealist philosophy.

    What underlies the Analytic tradition culminating with thinkers such as Bertrand Russell , is the view originally defended by Ockham that philosophical error arises from misunderstandings generated by language. According to analytic philosophers, the true meaning of ordinary sentences is "concealed by their grammatical form," and we must translate them into their true form understood as their logical form in order to clarify them.

    Both traditions tend to strongly reject any claim to certain knowledge about a given reality. Their dominance on the contemporary philosophical scene creates an atmosphere that is contrary to any affirmation of dogmatic belief or even the attempt to elaborate a worldview claiming to give definitive answers to fundamental questions. Ironically, the main actors on the contemporary philosophical arena have often been challenged for their dogmatic affirmation that certainty is impossible and they have sometimes been accused of promoting personal views under the cover of an overall criticism of established views.

    Although the word "philosophy" originates in the Western tradition, many figures in the history of other cultures have addressed similar topics in similar ways. The philosophers of the Far East are discussed in Eastern philosophy, while the philosophers of North Africa and the Near East, because of their strong interactions with Europe, are usually considered part of Western Philosophy. Many societies have considered philosophical questions and built philosophical traditions based upon each other's works. Eastern and Middle Eastern philosophical traditions have influenced Western philosophers.

    Russian, Jewish, Islamic and recently Latin American philosophical traditions have contributed to, or been influenced by, Western philosophy, yet each has retained a distinctive identity. The differences between traditions are often well captured by consideration of their favored historical philosophers, and varying stress on ideas, procedural styles, or written language. The subject matter and dialogues of each can be studied using methods derived from the others, and there are significant commonalities and exchanges between them.

    In the history of the Indian subcontinent, following the establishment of an Aryan—Vedic culture, the development of philosophical and religious thought over a period of two millennia gave rise to what came to be called the six schools of astika , or orthodox, Indian or Hindu philosophy. These schools have come to be synonymous with the greater religion of Hinduism.

    The origins of Hindu philosophy are to be traced in Vedic speculations circa B. Other major texts with philosophical implications include the Upanishads , the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutra, from circa B. Hindu philosophy constitutes an integral part of the culture of Southern Asia, and is the first of the Dharmic philosophies which were influential throughout the Far East. The great diversity in thought and practice of Hinduism is nurtured by its liberal universalism.

    Centuries before the western notably Greek tradition developed its own forms of philosophical speculation, India already had well-developed schools of philosophy. Most followed spiritual and idealistic lines involving speculation about the unity in diversity, giving Hindu polytheism a clear theistic bent. In these forms of speculation, Brahman was often seen as the underlying, unitary and universal Being of which the various divinities were mere expressions. At the same time, Brahman was often seen as being ultimately one with Atman , the equivalent of the human soul.

    Nevertheless, atheistic and materialistic philosophy also existed in the same environment. The extent of the direct link between this philosophical speculation and the later Greek philosophy is a matter of dispute. An influence of Indian thought on Middle Eastern, including Hebrew, thought has also been suggested.

    What is certain is that, to one degree or another, the Ancient Hindu tradition and the Ancient though less ancient Greek tradition, being both part of the Indo-European civilization have interacted, with India being the source. Plato in particular is often said to have been under the influence of the Hindu wisdom tradition. Persian philosophy can be traced back as far as Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts, with their ancient Indo-Iranian roots. These were considerably influenced by Zarathustra 's teachings. Throughout Iranian history and due to remarkable political and social influences such as the Macedonian , the Arab, and the Mongol invasions of Persia, a wide spectrum of schools of thought arose.

    These espoused a variety of views on philosophical questions, extending from Old Iranian and mainly Zoroastrianism -influenced traditions to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era, such as Manicheism and Mazdakism, as well as various post-Islamic schools. Iranian philosophy after Arab invasion of Persia is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy.

    The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia. Philosophy has had a tremendous effect on Chinese civilization, and East Asia as a whole. Many of the great philosophical schools were formulated during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period , and came to be known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. The four most influential of these were Confucianism , Daoism , Mohism , and Legalism.

    Later on, during the Tang Dynasty , Buddhism from India also became a prominent philosophical and religious discipline. It should be noted that Eastern thought, unlike Western philosophy, did not express a clear distinction between philosophy and religion. Like Western philosophy, Chinese philosophy covers a broad and complex range of thought, possessing a multitude of schools that address every branch and subject area of philosophy.

    Of all the Chinese philosophies, however, it is quite safe to say Confucianism has had the greatest impact on East Asia. His philosophy focused in the fields of ethics and politics; emphasizing greatly on personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, traditionalism, and sincerity.

    From religion to philosophy; a study in the origins of western speculation

    It could be debatably said that Confucianism is most responsible for shaping the Chinese culture and state during Imperial China. Throughout history, Chinese philosophy has been molded to fit the prevailing school of thought in China. The Chinese schools of philosophy, with the exception of the period during the Qin dynasty, have been relatively tolerant of one another. Instead of competition with one another, they generally have cooperated and shared ideas, which they would usually incorporate into their own.

    For example, Neo-Confucianism was a revived version of old Confucianism principles that appeared around the Ming Dynasty with Buddhist, Taoist, and Legalist aspects. During the Industrial and Modern Ages, Chinese philosophy has also began to integrate concepts of Western philosophy as steps for modernization.

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    Democracy , republicanism, and industrialism attempted to be incorporated into the Chinese philosophy by Sun Yat-sen at the beginning of the twentieth century. Mao Zedong added Marxism. Like Japan , Chinese philosophy has become somewhat of a melting pot of ideas. It accepts new concepts, while holding on to old beliefs. Other philosophical traditions, such as African philosophy, are rarely considered by foreign academia. Since emphasis is mainly placed on Western philosophy as a reference point, the study, preservation and dissemination of valuable, but lesser known, non-Western philosophical works face many obstacles.

    In the post-colonial period, different images of what could be argued as "African" Philosophy from the level of epistemology have risen. Momoh, and Chinweizu. The philosophy of the modern and contemporary African world, including the diaspora, is often known as Africana Philosophy. Rationalism is any view emphasizing the role or importance of human reason.

    From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation

    Extreme rationalism tries to base all knowledge on reason alone. Rationalism typically starts from premises that cannot coherently be denied, then attempts by logical steps to deduce every possible object of knowledge. The first rationalist, in this broad sense, is often held to be Parmenides fl.

    But thinking must have an object, therefore something beyond thinking really exists. Zeno of Elea born c. Plato — B.

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    The philosopher's work is to consider being, and the essence of things. But the characteristic of essences is that they are universal. The nature of a man, a triangle, a tree, applies to all men, all triangles, all trees. Modern rationalism begins with Descartes. Reflection on the nature of perceptual experience, as well as scientific discoveries in physiology and optics, led Descartes and also Locke to the view that we are directly aware of ideas, rather than objects. This view gave rise to three questions:.

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    In , in Meditations on First Philosophy, he used this method of doubt in an attempt to establish what knowledge is most certain. He chose as the foundation of his philosophy the famous statement Cogito ergo sum "I think, therefore I am". He then attempted to rebuild a system of knowledge based on this single supposedly indubitable fact. This involves proving the existence of God, using, among other means, a version of the ontological argument. Empiricism , in contrast to rationalism, downplays or dismisses the ability of reason alone to yield knowledge of the world, preferring to base any knowledge we have on our senses.

    John Locke propounded the classic empiricist view in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in , developing a form of naturalism and empiricism on roughly scientific and Newtonian principles. Hume's work A Treatise of Human Nature combined empiricism with a spirit of skepticism. Other philosophers who made major contributions to empiricism include Thomas Hobbes and George Berkeley Bishop Berkeley. During this era, religious ideas played a mixed role in the struggles that preoccupied secular philosophy.

    Bishop Berkeley 's famous idealist refutation of key tenets of Isaac Newton is a case of an Enlightenment philosopher who drew substantially from religious ideas. The restricted interests of many of the philosophers of the time foreshadow the separation and specialization of different areas of philosophy that would occur in the 20th century. Kant's intention with this work was to look at what we know and then consider what must be true about the way we know it. One major theme was that there are fundamental features of reality that escape our direct knowledge because of the natural limits of the human faculties.

    Kant's philosophy, known as transcendental idealism , would later be made more abstract and more general, in the movement known as German idealism , a type of absolute idealism. German idealism rose to popularity with G. Hegel 's publication in of Phenomenology of Spirit. In that work, Hegel asserts that the aim of philosophy is to spot the contradictions apparent in human experience which arise, for instance, out of the recognition of the self as both an active, subjective witness and a passive object in the world and to get rid of these contradictions by making them compatible.

    Hegel believed that every thesis creates its own antithesis, and that out of the two arises a synthesis, a process known as the "Hegelian dialectic. The late nineteenth century brought about the rise of a new philosophy in the New World. Charles Peirce and William James are considered to be the co-founders of loosely allied schools of pragmatism , which holds that the truth of beliefs does not consist in their correspondence with reality, but in their usefulness and efficacy.

    It led to what would later be called instrumentalism , the idea that what is important for a good theory is how useful it is, not how well it represents reality. Since the usefulness of any belief at any time might be contingent on circumstance, Peirce and James conceptualized final truth as that which would be established only by the future, final settlement of all opinion. Though not widely recognized under the term "pragmatist," philosophers like Henri Bergson and G. Moore shared many of the same foundational assumptions with the pragmatists.

    Pragmatism has recently been taken in new directions by Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. Critics have accused pragmatism of falling victim to a simple fallacy: because something that is true proves useful, that usefulness is the basis for its truth.

    With the publication of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead's Principia Mathematica in , mathematical logic attracted the interest of many philosophers. With this increased interest in mathematical logic came the rise in popularity for the view known as logical positivism and related theories, all of which shared a commitment to the reliability of empirical tests. Philosophers such as Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach considered only confirmable or falsifiable claims to be genuine philosophy; anything that could not be deduced from testable claims was considered mere superstition or dogma.

    To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about From Religion to Philosophy , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about From Religion to Philosophy. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order.

    Mar 11, Mia rated it liked it Shelves: nonfiction , read It wasn't what I expected but it was a worthwhile read. I learned a great deal about the changes in ancient Greek beliefs -- including about the rise of "Olympian" beliefs which are the ones we become most familiar with when we study Greek mythology. I could have done without the dichotomy drawn between the ancient Greeks as the source of Western thought, and the description of more contemporary polytheistic cultures as "savages", but I tried to stay mindful of the book's being published almos It wasn't what I expected but it was a worthwhile read.

    I could have done without the dichotomy drawn between the ancient Greeks as the source of Western thought, and the description of more contemporary polytheistic cultures as "savages", but I tried to stay mindful of the book's being published almost years ago. My favorite parts were where a small attempt was made to draw parallels and comparisons to Taoist, and Hindu beliefs, but that was also clearly not the author's area of expertise, so the examinations didn't go very far.


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    • Jul 05, Kevin Fitzpatrick rated it really liked it. Cornford's "From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origin of Western Speculation" traces the origins of the Pre-Socratic philosophers deep into the recesses of the remote, archaic past of the people's of the Greek peninsula. However, while Harrison's work delineates the sources of the religious, Cornford's work illustrates how archaic religious thought influenced, conditioned, and created the early appearances of rat In the same vein as his contemporary Jane Ellen Harrison's "Themis," F.

      However, while Harrison's work delineates the sources of the religious, Cornford's work illustrates how archaic religious thought influenced, conditioned, and created the early appearances of rational scientific theories. Exploring the theories of thinkers as diverse as Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Pythagoras, this wonderful book explains these theories by referring to more contemporary thinkers such as Frazer, Harrison, and Durkheim, and by doing so "explains" the very intimate connection of the origins of science with magic and the divine.

      The relevancy of these ideas in light of more modern theories is in doubt; however, as a relic of how the issues were dealt with in the recent past, and as an exercise in how to lay out a concise, thematically tight theory, this book is without equal. So, if one is interested in early theories of the origin of rational thought, one should read this book with alacrity: it is that good! James F rated it liked it Feb 04, Kim Skytte rated it it was amazing Apr 18, Mark Gring rated it really liked it Nov 27, Weston Campbell rated it it was amazing Dec 19, Kevin Bradshaw rated it liked it May 22, Ghevf Bernstones rated it really liked it Jul 26, Michael rated it really liked it Oct 27, Deborah Hill rated it it was amazing Feb 17, David Black rated it it was amazing Sep 03, Charlie Comer rated it really liked it May 22, Maan Kawas rated it really liked it Oct 06,