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PROFESSOR LOVEJOY AND THE HISTORY OF IDEAS* REVIEWS A. S. P. WooDHOUSE The volume under review is an unusual form of Festschrift., but an admirable one, and, in the circumstances, singularly appropriate. Professor Lovejoy's friends and disciples came together to present him with a collection, not of their writings, but of his own-that is, to sponsor the publication in book form of such of his essays in the history of ideas as he might select. As conceived by Professor Lovejoy and his followers, the history of ideas is a "new discipline'' in the humanities, or a new co-ordination of existing disciplines, which cuts across conventional departmental boundaries and effects a fruitful alliance of philosophy, history, and literature. Its concern is with the basic concepts which have made up the body of human thought: with the terminology in which they have been cast, with 11:.h.eir mutual interplay, and with their presrure upon, and response to, developn1ents in particular fields of knowledge and art. Its me-thod is at once analytical and historical, and from the major literatures, as well as from philosophy, it derives an important part of its material, and on them it sheds' a good deal of fresh light. Not that this exhausts the posssibilities of the new discipline. Professor Lovejoy (as he tells us in "The Historiography of Ideas") looks forward to the time when other disciplines, including "the history of science, ... some parts of the history of language, especially semantics, the history of religious beliefs and theological doctrines, . . . what is unhappily called 'comparative literature' ..., the history of the arts other than literature ..., economic history and the history of economic theory ... [and] political and social history/' will be drawn much more fully than at present into the orbit of the history of ideas. For the new discipline, Professor Lovejoy insists on the necessity of "a sound training in the history of philosophical ideas" (since among these are to be found "the greater number of the more fundamental and pervasive ideas, and especially of the controlling preconceptions, which manifest themselves in other regions of intellectual history'~), "and-what is not less important-in the methods of philosophical analysis." But it is perfectly evident that the history of ideas is not simply the history of philosophy under a new name. It differs from that discipline in the range of its data and the focus of its attention: for it must give heed to "the repercussions of philosophic ideas outside *Essays in the History of Ideas. By ARTHUR 0. LoVEJOY. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. ·1948. Pp. xviii, 359. ($5.00) 190 REVIEWS 191 the great technical systems," and it must draw upon other sources. Among these the importance of literature has been demonstrated by the work of Professor Lovejoy himself ever since, in 1916, he published· his first essay on the meaning of the term "Romantic,') henceforth dividing his time between his formal studies in philosophy and the shaping and illustration of the new discipline. In The Great Chain of Being he furnished an example of the history of an idea on a large scale, commencing with some account of the discipline and its method, proceeding to a luminous distinction between two attitudes, recurrent in religious thought, the this-worldly and the other-worldly, to the former of which the concept of the Great Chain belonged, and then tracing its history from its beginnings in Plato and Aristotle to its final transformation in the years around 1800. Particularly impressive, both in themselves and in exhibiting the methods and results of the new discipline, were the chapters dealing with the eighteenth century. There Professor Lovejoy showed the affinity of the age for the concept of the Chain of Being as the instantaneous and static realization of all compossibles, and its bearing upon eighteenth-century conservatism and optimism, and incidentally threw new light upon, and derived new light from, Pope's Essay on Man. Turning finally to the temporalizing of the Chain, the conceiving of it no longer as instantaneous and static, but as developing in time, .Professor Lovejoy showed how ideas, and especially implications of the principle of plentitude, were released, which harmonized no less perfectly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 190-194
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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