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Book Reviews ,Shapes oS Philosophical History. By Frank E. Manuel. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965.Pp. 166.$1.95.) Based upon his seven Camp Lectures of 1962 at Stanford, Professor Manuel has issued this taut and recondite volume describing the forms philosophical history has taken in the West. He has performed a difficult task well, giving much scholarly substance to his theme that two archetypal shapes of speculative history-writing have dominated Western thought, one an Augustinian teleological.unitary-procursus view, the other a Polybian, cyclical, Ixionlike , Stoic model. The first is broadly defined as "movement either to a fixed end, or to an indefinite end that defines itself in the course of the progression, history as novelty-creating and always variant"; the second as "circularity, eternal recurrence, return to the beginning of things, sheer reiteration or similar recapitulation." Comte and modem progressists are at the end of the first line, Nietzsehe and Spengler and other cylicists at the end of the second. However, broadly again, amalgamations of the two types are possible, syncretistic variants have often taken shape, and, Protean-hke, both lend themselves to almost infinite interpretive patterns. These typologies are psychological more than logical polarities, both emotional and intellectual alternatives, so they often stand for and serve contradictory purposes. Yet historians tend to betray their preference for one of these opposed conceptions, according to Manuel, as they "select an identity for historic man." Deliberately refraining from taking sides on the issue (thus implicitly casting some doubt on his contention that historians and others "inevitably betray their preference for one of these opposing conceptions"), Manuel addresses himself to the task of illuminating the polarity , exhibiting the multiplicity of its forms through time and focusing upon crucial moments of the debate in the West. Of these exhibits--early Christians vs. pagans, Augustine vs. Joachim, the virtual triumph of cyclicism in the Renaissance (albeit with a split developed between negative and positive, pessimist and optimist cyclicists), the ambivalence of the eighteenth-century Germans on the issue (particularly Kant and Herder), the triumphant optimism of the French perfectibilists , the vacillation of the German academists--Manuel's examination of the French and German writers stands out, although the range of his knowledge and first-hand inspection of archival sources from Augustine's time to Toynbee's demonstrates an admirable scholarship. Of the eighteenth-century Germans, Manuel well illustrates their ambivalent and paradoxical side. Herder, for example, nominally an opponent, debating against "abderite" cyclical theory and apparently concluding in favor of it; Goethe wondering whether the world "will become one great hospital in which we behave toward one another like benign male nurses" if Herder's more optimistic notions triumph; old Kant in his special language rejecting all then current models of world history (moral terrorism, abderitism and eudaemonism ) and opting for what Manuel calls a "mechanism... akin to the cunning of reason" to institute a just civil constitution and estabhsh perpetual peace, yet not really persuaded that his sanguine view of moral progress would prevail. As for the later Germans in and out of the Academy (particularly Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, HSlderlin and Hamann) while youthful enthusiasts of progress (everyone knows the story of the young Hegel and his friends planting the tree of liberty saluting the French revolution), their conceptions of history became more and more Platonic, more and more nostalgic and parochial. On the other hand Manuel's account of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century French relates their boundless energy and dedication to progressist conceptions, a development he holds as quite isolated and isolable from the German movement. Without doubt the French had the most imagination and the most confidence in developing philosophical history to an almost dizzying optimistic pitch. Manuel demonstrates a line from Voltaire through Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Fourier and the Saint-Simonians to Auguste Comte, each building on the others in time, each theorizing "man's steady conquest of the external world, beginning in a period when he was still the member of a feeble and isolated band, and culminating in his present high estate." "The Golden Age of the human species is not behind us, it is before [171] 172 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY us," Saint-Simon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 171-172
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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