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78COMMENTARIES least encourage many to carry out such stimulating studies with the leisure and the space they require. In any case, Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy must remain an object of awed wonder. An 836 page history of two thousand five hundred years of speculations in which the author finds practically everyone at least limping, and most wholly out of step but himself and his school, cannot possibly be considered a mean achievement. The tragic fact, however, remains that, being a monument to the disparagement of "substance", that so-called history can but add to the deliquescence of western thought, at a time when such dissolving of "universals", with the consequent loss of all standards, is now punishable by the possibility of the dissolving of all "particulars." Louis J. A. Merqer Cambridge, Mass. A HISTORY OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY AND ITS CONNECTION WITH POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY" II Book I. Ancient Philosophy The appearance of a history of philosophy by one of the most famous of modern philosophers is bound to create considerable curiosity, not only among scholars and philosophers, but among the general public as well. The name of Bertrand Russell has been outstanding in the philosophy of the twentieth century, especially in mathematics and logic, but also in politics and sociology. In fact, his interest in the latter is just as old and of late has become more prominent. One of his earliest works was on German Social Democracy, and he has also written on political ideals, freedom, propaganda, Bolshevism, marriage and morals, religion, education, war and peace. In his life, too, he has been active to a certain extent in politics and in championing moral issues in which he believed. One might imagine as a result of this — or because of it — that Russell would have a consistent and well-formulated philosophy of history. Such appears not to be the case, however, and this is the conclusion reached by Sidney Hook in the recently published Symposium on the philosophy of Russell. This is confirmed by Russell himself in his "Reply to Criticisms" in the same volume, in which he states that "while certain departments of history can already be made more scientific . . . the attempt to create a philosophy of history is a mistake." In the light of such an avowal, it would be unfair to criticize the work only in this way, and yet the fact that the results are scarcely gratifying should none the less be noted. Hook is also of the opinion that much of his historical work betrays an economic determinism which he himself has expressly disavowed. Although in his COMMENTARIES79 introduction to the present work (xiv) Russell expresses his belief in a reciprocal causality, philosophic and moral ideas are treated mainly as effect rather than as cause. Economic and social conditions are the real causes. Hegel, though abandoned in mathematics and logic, seems still to wield an influence here. As far as I am aware, Russell has never written extensively on other philosophers with the exception of Leibniz and Bergson. Certainly this is his first venture into the history of philosophy as such, in which his purpose is to "exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life (ix) ." In so doing he feels he is entering a No Man's Land— the reader frequently has the same impression — for such he calls philosophy, the No Man's Land between science and theology (xiii). He admits that science cannot answer the questions of philosophy and accuses theology as such of having made the attempt, convincing previously, but now under suspicion by reason of its very definiteness, inducing a "dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance," and by so doing generating "a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe (xiv)." His admission concerning science is not to be taken too seriously, for he elsewhere states that "in the sphere of thought, sober civilization is roughly synonymous with science (16)." The latter view seems closer to his own feeling in the matter. Let us see what this social approach to philosophy has produced. He recognizes in the search for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 78-89
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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