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The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy 2 Volume Hardback Set

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Item Number 156618  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   1642
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.76" Width: 6.76" Height: 3.66"
Weight:   6.12 lbs.
Binding  Boxed Sets
Release Date   Jan 28, 1998
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
ISBN  0521588642  
EAN  9780521588645  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The Cambridge History of 17th Century Philosophy offers a uniquely comprehensive and authoritative overview of early-modern philosophy written by an international team of specialists. As with previous Cambridge histories of philosophy the subject is treated by topic and theme, and since history does not come packaged in neat bundles, the subject is also treated with great temporal flexibility, incorporating frequent reference to medieval and Renaissance ideas. The basic structure of the volumes corresponds to the way an educated seventeenth-century European might have organized the domain of philosophy. Thus, the history of science, religious doctrine, and politics feature very prominently. The narrative that unfolds begins with an intellectual world dominated by a synthesis of Aristotelianism and scholastic philosophy, but by the end of the period the mechanistic or "corpuscularian" philosophy has emerged and exerted its full impact on traditional metaphysics, ethics, theology, logic, and epistemology.

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1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General   [14516  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Not quite...  Mar 5, 2005
The other reviewer has fallen infinitely into Hegelian obscurantism and fails to see how his lack of grasp of the Absolute is unrecognized since there is no limit with which one can distinguish knolwedge and ignorance; he complains how a scholarly, professional - written for professionals - publication is too scholarly and professional! LOL. He misses the context and thus falls into the particularist ignorance he chides. Maybe he ouht to just leave it to us professional philosophers to make the call.

The book is a fine book in seeing the interrealations and antecedents and repurcusions of the early modern philosophy. It is technical at points but nothing one cannot handle if he has the patience. The bibliographies are great to promote further study. This is a topic one person - other than the other reviewer he would have you think - cannot possibly master and so a group effort is needed, i.e., articles written by people who have devoted their lives to a topic, and they write to inform us who work on other things. FYI to the other reviewer - we call that "scholarship."
Should Spinoza have gotten married and settled down?  Nov 6, 2000
Another team effort by a group of specialists in various areas of 17th century philosophy, this book has an underlying disunity, like The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. It purposely departs from the "great man thinking" tradition of older histories, but this itself is a conscious return to the way a 17th century book would be organized: by subject-matter.

Thus we hear not only from Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, but also from their critics and detractors.

There is, here, a false and generalized humility. There is, here, no there, there.

For Hegel, the whole point of philosophy was the reflection of absolute reality by a single mind, not a team-mind, not a group-mind. The fact that absolute knowledge of that great muffin, the World Spirit, was open to all was not taken by Hegel to mean that the knowledge would be collective, and Spinoza's magnificent ending to his essay On Human Freedom, "everything excellent is difficult as it is rare", states in essence that while it is POSSIBLE for the ordinary slob to grasp what Spinoza is saying, it is also POSSIBLE for any given slob (such as one of Spinoza's correspondents, a singularly unpleasant business man who pestered him with absurd questions) to fail to understand.

But the post-modern, "administered" mind feels that the possibility entails the actuality, that the least able and even the least willing will "get it", and sees a bogus elitism when some members of the team don't "get it."

There is some question as to whether group-knowledge is knowledge at all.

It is one thing to partition a field for mere convenience and later presentation of the results in the form that could be grasped by one mind.

It is quite another for the knowledge to be virtual, and to remain in the group.

Take a simple example. A knows B: C knows D. If this is given, it is not the case that either A or C knows the proposition "B and D." But if we fire or otherwise terminate knower *manque* C (or alternatively knower A), the remaining knower works harder but at the end of the day knows more.

The most common argument for scholarly specialisation predefines how much an individual can know and also is very pessimistic about the knowers' (and the brains') ability to develop new mechanisms for integrating knowledge as a byproduct of the learning process. A false humility allows the administered mind to knock off prematurely at the task of knowledge, and play golf, for it is pessimistic about the possibility of a more Hegelian and more absolute, totalizing knowledge.

The Cambridge History therefore regresses to the post-mediaeval 17th century in its methodology, and regresses prior to the thinkers covered who at the summit replaced Scholasticism (itself a form of group think) with the in principle ability of the mind to comprehend more than a narrow subject area. This in principle ability reached its full flower in Kant and its apotheosis in Hegel.

The critique of the dead white male approach, in other words, has thrown the baby out with the bath-water. If 17th century philosophy is presented without the judgement that the guys thinking were of different abilities the student is ultimately confused, and philosophy no longer becomes the optimistic study of ascending progress. The self-reflexivity of thought entails, however, that once you introduce this pessimism, it becomes self-reinforcing.

A certain sourness, a certain nastiness, creeps into overspecialized language. For example, this book reports a 17th century syllogism, to the effect that all men are white, no Africans are white, and therefore no Africans are men. It astonished me that this syllogism is presented with no comment about its repugnance, and I speculate that the author and editor decided not to be too "politically correct." Far from being a hotbed of liberalism, many universities are hotbeds of a negative and a fearful conservatism which is anxious not to conform to a (false) caricature. One wishes that the editor had added a qualification or used a different syllogism.

Noam Chomsky has commented on the absence of really good books on scholarly fields for the general public. His ideal was Lancelot Hogben's book Mathematics for the Million. In philosophy, especially in his magisterial but outdated History, Lord Russell popularized without becoming superficial.

The intelligent general reader will understand and retain the details in the Cambridge history, and some of the chapters (especially Professor Mahoney's) are good. It also helps us to see that men did not forget the Scholastic tradition at midnight in the year 1600 and it makes the point also made by Harry Wolfson's study of Spinoza that you can't understand 17th century thought ahistorically. Spinoza and the other major league hitters were batting balls thrown by men who intellectually were of the 16th century and before (to use a baseball analogy: the editing of my review of the Columbia History made me sound like Yogi Berra, so I may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.)

But ultimately the grand narrative is replaced by trivial unanswered questions, such as should Spinoza have gotten married, and settled down. Or what.


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