A New, Revised History of Philosophy
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Book Reviews A NEW,REVISED HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY The new edition in four volumes of the History of Western Philosophy by W. T. Jones (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969) Which this Journal has announced in recent issues as the volumes appeared, calls for a detailed description, for it is a different work both in format (paperback) and in content from the edition of almost twenty years ago. It is now available as an up-to-date, convenient, critical work for students of philosophy in or out of college. In addition to being a good study guide and reference work it is enjoyable literature. The author states precisely what revisions he has made, so that we can summarize this information for the benefit of those readers who know the earlier edition, before we describe the history as a whole. There is a general revision of the text and references in view of recent historical researches. In Volume I there is a new section on axiomatic geometry, also selections from Sextus Empiricus and other materials on Greek scepticism; and the section on Greek atomism has been expanded. Volume II contains a new section on the dissolution of the Roman Empire, a new section on gnosticism, and extensive revisions of the sections on the Gospels and Epistles and on Augustine, and a new section on late medieval physical theory with selections from Buridan. Volume III includes summary accounts of the maior explorations and discoveries, the growth of commercial capital, humanism, the religious Reformation, the new scientific methods basic to modern thinking, and the formation of modern cultures. Volume IV includes completely rewritten sections on Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, and new chapters on Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Husserl and Sartre. Approximately one third of the text consists of selections from the writings of the philosophers under discussion. The passages selected are good illustrations of each philosopher's own method, idioms, and problems; they are therefore important materials for study and for a critical discussion. Professor Jones opens up such discussion, inviting the reader to make his own interpretations and comments. Thus the four volumes offer a substantial quantity of source material and anthology; the selections are not presented as isolated fragments but in the context of a critical discussion. The general aim and form of the history is an important innovation. Instead of attempting a narrative of the whole course and corpus of Western philosophical classics and literature, the author has selected a relatively small number of philosophers in order to deal with each as an individual thinker, presenting him in his environment , with his problems, interests and resources. This more personal analysis of philosophers avoids the academic custom of treating all as a continuous chain of "successors" and as mere exponents of systematic philosophy. In Jones's own words: It is better to understand a few theories than to be superficially acquainted with a great many.... I have been forced to be selective by my determination that . . . I would not mention a philosopher unless I could deal with his views in some detail.... Philosophers axe men, not disembodied spirits.... All the great philosophers have actually been concerned with what may be called "local" problems. To be understood their theories must be [375] 376 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY seen as expressions--doubtless on a highly conceptualized level--of the same currents of thought and feeling that were moving the poets and the statesmen, the theologians and the playwrights, and the ordinary men of the age.... The cultural milieu in which a given philosophy emerges can be ignored only at the risk of making the philosophy seem a detached (and so meaningless and inconsequential) affair. (Preface) Occasionally Professor Jones is willing to violate his "determination" by merely mentioning a philosopher. For instance, in connection with a discussion of Bain's psychology , F. H. Bradley is mentioned in a footnote, which quotes his comment: "Mr. Bain collects that the mind is a collection. Has he ever thought who collects Mr. Bain?" (IV:41n). But this pithy remark, I suppose, throws enough light on Mr. Bradley as well as on Mr. Bain to permit Mr. Jones to refrain from further attempts to understand Mr. Bradley. The following historical philosophers have...


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