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The Unity of Philosophical Experience [Paperback]

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Pages   269
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.03" Width: 5.3" Height: 0.84"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 1999
Publisher   Ignatius Press
ISBN  089870748X  
EAN  9780898707489  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The best summary of this book is in the author's foreword: "It is the proper aim and scope of the present book to show that the history of philosophy makes philosophical sense, and to define its meaning in regard to the nature of philosophical knowledge itself. For that reason, the various doctrines, as well as the definite parts of these doctrines, which have been taken into account in this volume, should not be considered as arbitrarily selected fragments from some abridged description of medieval and modern philosophy, but as a series of concrete philosophical experiments especially chosen for their dogmatic significance. Each of them represents a definite attempt to deal with philosophical knowledge according to a certain method, and all of them, taken together, make up a philosophical experience. The fact that all those experiments have yielded the same result will, as I hope, justify the common conclusion... that there is a centuries long experience of what philosophical knowledge is - and that such an experience exhibits a remarkable unity."

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More About Etienne Gilson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Etienne Gilson was born in Paris in 1884. He became Professor of Mediaeval Philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1921, and from 1932 until his retirement in 1951, he held a similar chair at the College de France. From 1929 until his death, he was affiliated with the Institute of Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto.

Etienne Gilson was born in 1884 and died in 1978.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Best Single Book in the History of Philosophy  Jul 9, 2007
This is one of my favorite books. I regularly recommend it as the best single book in the history of philosophy. I'm delighted that it is again in print and at a reasonable price.
A Philosophical Must  Nov 8, 2006
Gilson's work is composed of four parts. In each of the first three parts he explores the advent and demise of a philosophical system (the Medieval experiment, the Cartesian experiment, the Modern experiment) and identifies the recurring fatal attribute contained in each: the application of a particular science (logic, mathematics, science respectively) to the investigation of first principles. The successive failures of these systems has led to the "natural" but not "logical" modern conclusion that metaphysics is impossible. Gilson rejoins that simply because no one has ever succeeded in forming a complete metaphysical system that "explains" all reality doesn't spell the death of metaphysics. Such an enterprise isn't the goal of metaphysics to begin with, and anyone attempting such an undertaking is doomed before he starts. One cannot start with a method and attempt to encapsulate being since being is inexhaustible. Rather, one must start with being and work his way out. As Gilson observes, "Man is not a mind that thinks, but a being who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful." The metaphysician must accept being a priori and interpret it anew for each generation. Metaphysics is not dead or static, but alive and as new as each succeeding moment. The nihilism which marks the present age is the result of systems imposing themselves upon being which results in frustration and emptiness. It is only when one allows being to reveal itself to us that any meaning can be derived from existence.
A history of philosophy with philosophical implications  Mar 9, 2002
Lectures given by Etienne Gilson in 1936 at Harvard. Gilson defines the coming war, World War II, as a philosophical war of two different heads of Hegelianism. Communism, which is inspired by a look forward, into what will be, and helping it along (all conjecture of course); and the Hitlarian (Romantic) looking to the past. Thus Hitler's paganism and his desire to rid Europe of all nonindigionious elements, especially Semetic. Christianity, after all, is a conquering force upon the natural purity and indigoniousness of Europe. It is a glorification of what man, or more importantly, a nation (peoples) would be had they been left in their natural state uncorupted by foreign elements. A Darwinian, Rousousian, Kantian mix (among others) that created the ultranationalistic Romanticism. Gilson defines these misguided principles (still the dominant principles of today) as leading to a future tragic bloody war. But it also explains why Japan, in WWII, wished to be rid of Americanism in their culture, and of any foreign influences. Anyway it leads to extreme nationalism that is just an end result of Romanticism. The problems with defining the truth of Hitler to modern minds is we are not far removed from the thesis and antithesis of his metaphyiscal plain.

The most important thesis of the book, however, is Gilson's defense that philosophy and more importantly metaphysics is a process and not a conclusion. Once one has made metaphysics a conclusion it ceases to be Metaphysics. Metaphyics can supose a greater truth, like an octagon being closer to a circle than a hexagon, but to incompus all truth is at least a human impossibility. However there have been many cycles in the history were postulations of a "metaphysical" entirety of truth have lead to philosophical cycles of argumentation, sometimes with real physical consequences. These cycles have turned into philosophical battles between true metaphyics and the false. The most recent false metaphicans have been Hegel, Kant, Carte, Hume, Descartes, and William of Ockham, plus their various disciples. The first cycle, Gilson defines, is that of Thales, 2,600 years ago, claiming all is an absolute of everything being air, followed by Anaximenes claiming everything was not air but water, and then Heraclitus caliming all is fire, then the first synthasis of this absurdity was Anaxaimander saying that the common things of all this stuff was indeterminable.

Gilson spends most of his effort, 99% of it, in defining the modern and medieaval cycles of metaphysical certatude and the resulting problems. Any summary of it would not do it justice.

The importance of this book to historians and pilosophers and historians of philosophy is immense. I don't know of any other book which so vividly paints a picture of modern thinking and how "it" got here than this book. Although I must admit I got hopelessly lost in the discriptions of Descarte's postulations, but the thesis of Descartes was made clear. One could go on forever about this book it is a cornicopia of ideas for further study and expansion. Highly recommended for any student of history or philosophy. Gilson brings a view that cannot be ignored. The question I have for Gilson, if I could ask it, is does Gilson agree that error illuminates the truth, as Aquinas did, and further, if error is good.

Gilson convincingly argues that there is unity to the philosophical experience and this experience is illuminating on the nature of man and perhaps more.

This is one of the good ones  Aug 13, 2000
I found this little book a quarter of a century ago. I have never seen it since, but I've never forgotten it. What Gilson has to say here is simple, sane, important and exciting and just really fun to read. And sturdy too. It holds up. A reviewer below said that he was thrilled to see this is back in print. Well, so am I.
A Gem  Jun 14, 2000
This book is part history of philosophy, part history of philosophizing, and -- and its own way -- part introduction to philosophy. In so doing, Etienne Gilson shows the "unity of philosophical experience" through a study of important philosophers.

Etienne Gilson was one of the greatest historians of philosophy in the 20th century. His brilliance shows throughout this work and so much could be quoted. For example: "As soon as Descartes published it, it became apparent that, like Caesar's wife, the existence of the world should be above suspicion . . . . Descartes had endeavored to prove something that could not be proved, not beacause it is not true, but on the contrary, beacause it is evident." (p. 146.)

If you are new to the study of philosophy, get this book for an introduction; if you are familiar with philosophy, this is a great "refresher course."


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