History of Western
history of Western philosophy:
- philosophy as distinct from theology, began in Greece in 6th C BC,
again became submerged by theology as Chrsitianity rose & Rome fell.
- its 2nd great period, from the 11th to 14th C AD was dominated by the
Catholic Church, except for a few great rebels such as Emperor Frederic
- this period ended due to the confusions that culminated in the
- the 3rd great period, from the 17th C to present day, is dominated by
science, although traditional religious beliefs remain important
- ancient philosophy:
- the Milesian school
- Thales (~585BC)
- everything is made of water
- the earth rests on water
- the magnet has a soul in it because it moves iron
- all things are full of gods
- Anaximander (~564BC)
- all things come from a single primal substance, but it is
not water, nor other known substances
- conception of justice - of not overstepping eternally
- man evolved from fishes
- earth is a cylinder
- Anaximedes (<494BC)
- the fundamental substance is air
- earth is shaped like a round table surrounded by air
- Pythagorus (~532BC)
- founded a school of mathematics - all things are numbers
- founded a religion - transmigration of souls; sin to eat
- Heraclitus (~500BC)
- fire is the fundamental substance
- everything is born by the death of something else
- hostile attitude to life
- Parmenides (500-450BC)
- the way of opinion
- the way of truth - "both thought & language require
objects outside themselves" "words have a constant
- Empedocles (~440BC)
- discovered that air is a separate substance
- evolution & survival of the fittest
- founder of Italian medical school
- 4 elements - earth, air, fire & water - combined by love
& separated by strife
- Anaxogorus (500-432BC)
- everything is infinitely divisible
- moon shines by reflected light
- correct theory of eclipses, knew moon is below sun
- 1st to bring philosophy to Athens
- Atomists - Leucippus & Democritus (~440BC)
- contemporaries to the Sophists
- everything is composed of atoms which always moved
- Socratic era:
- Socrates (~400BC)
- Plato (429-347BC): - a dualist
- is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the
Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating,
wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of
- he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be
conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he
so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled,
that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived — a
rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political,
metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a
distinctive method — can be called his invention.
- Plato believed that the true substances are not physical
bodies, which are ephemeral, but the eternal Forms of which
bodies are imperfect copies. These Forms not only make the world
possible, they also make it intelligible, because they perform
the role of universals, or what Frege called 'concepts'. It is
their connection with intelligibility that is relevant to the
philosophy of mind. Because Forms are the grounds of
intelligibility, they are what the intellect must grasp in the
process of understanding.
- Few other authors in the history of philosophy approximate him
in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with
him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the
- Aristotle (~350BC):
- Aristotle did not believe in Platonic Forms, existing
independently of their instances. Aristotelian forms (the
capital 'F' has disappeared with their standing as autonomous
entities) are the natures and properties of things and exist
embodied in those things. This enabled Aristotle to explain the
union of body and soul by saying that the soul is the form of
the body. This means that a particular person's soul is no more
than his nature as a human being. Because this seems to make the
soul into a property of the body, it led many interpreters, both
ancient and modern, to interpret his theory as
- The interpretation of Aristotle's philosophy of mind — and,
indeed, of his whole doctrine of form — remains as live an
issue today as it was immediately after his death (Robinson
(1983) and (1991); Nussbaum (1984); Rorty and Nussbaum, eds,
- Nevertheless, the text makes it clear that Aristotle believed
that the intellect, though part of the soul, differs from other
faculties in not having a bodily organ. His argument for this
constitutes a more tightly argued case than Plato's for the
immateriality of thought and, hence, for a kind of dualism. He
argued that the intellect must be immaterial because if it were
material it could not receive all forms. Just as the eye,
because of its particular physical nature, is sensitive to light
but not to sound, and the ear to sound and not to light, so, if
the intellect were in a physical organ it could be sensitive
only to a restricted range of physical things; but this is not
the case, for we can think about any kind of material object (De
Anima III,4; 429a10 -- b9). As it does not have a material
organ, its activity must be essentially immaterial.
- felt most of us don't understand what we really need to make
us happy, and substitute spending in place of it
- blamed advertising in the commercial world for misleading and
- whilst some money is needed to allow us to attain happiness by
provision of our basic needs, more money than this is not an
essential ingredient for further levels of happiness
- all you need for happiness are friends, freedom &
- feeding without a friend is like a lion - always consider
carefully who you will eat with & don't eat alone
- friends should ideally be people we meet with daily not
just once in a while
- created a self-sufficient commune to get freedom
- analyse life by taking step back from world & quietly
think about your life and your problems
- often misinterpreted as meaning eating excessively, drinking
wine & materialism, neither of these he did
- most of his writings have been lost, but his philosophy has
been maintained in epicurean communities esp. southern
- the Stoic school (Stoicism):
- Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (344-262 BC)
- Cleanthes (d. 232 BC)
- Chrysippus (d. ca. 206 BC).
- Stoicism was one of the new philosophical movements of the
Hellenistic period. The name derives from the porch (stoa poikilê)
in the Agora at Athens decorated with mural paintings, where the
members of the school congregated, and their lectures were held.
Unlike ‘epicurean,’ the sense of the English adjective
‘stoical’ is not utterly misleading with regard to its
philosophical origins. The Stoics did, in fact, hold that emotions
like fear or envy (or impassioned sexual attachments, or passionate
love of anything whatsoever) either were, or arose from, false
judgements and that the sage--a person who had attained moral and
intellectual perfection--would not undergo them.
- the sage is utterly immune to misfortune and that virtue is
sufficient for happiness.
- only the sage is free while all others are slaves.
- Though it seems clear that some Stoics took a kind of perverse joy
in advocating views which seem so at odds with common sense, they
did not do so simply to shock. Stoic ethics achieves a certain
plausibility within the context of their physical theory and
psychology, and within the framework of Greek ethical theory as that
was handed down to them from Plato and Aristotle. It seems that they
were well aware of the mutually interdependent nature of their
philosophical views, likening philosophy itself to a living animal
in which logic is bones and sinews; ethics and physics, the flesh
and the soul respectively (another version reverses this assignment,
making ethics the soul). Their views in logic and physics are no
less distinctive and interesting than those in ethics itself.
- The only complete works by Stoic philosophers that we possess are
those by writers of Imperial times, Seneca (4 BC-65 AD), Epictetus
(c. 55-135) and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180) and these
works are principally focused on ethics. They tend to be long on
moral exhortation but give only clues to the theoretical bases of
the moral system.
- Christian era:
- Marcus Aurelius (`150AD)
- St Augustine (~400AD)
- middle age philosophy:
- 11th-14thC AD:
- Avicenna (~1000AD)
- Peter Abelard (1079 – 21 April 1142):
- was the pre-eminent philosopher and theologian of the twelfth
century. The teacher of his generation, he was also famous as a
poet and a musician.
- Prior to the recovery of Aristotle, he brought the native
Latin tradition in philosophy to its highest pitch. His genius
was evident in all he did.
- He is, arguably, the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and
is equally famous as the first great nominalist
- He championed the use of reason in matters of faith (he was
the first to use ‘theology’ in its modern sense), and his
systematic treatment of religious doctrines are as remarkable
for their philosophical penetration and subtlety as they are for
- Abelard seemed larger than life to his contemporaries: his
quick wit, sharp tongue, perfect memory, and boundless arrogance
made him unbeatable in debate — he was said by supporter and
detractor alike never to have lost an argument — and the force
of his personality impressed itself vividly on all with whom he
came into contact.
- His luckless affair with Héloïse made him a tragic figure of
romance, and his conflict with Bernard of Clairvaux over reason
and religion made him the hero of the Enlightenment.
- For all his colourful life, though, his philosophical
achievements are the cornerstone of his fame.
- St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):
- lived at a critical juncture of western culture when the
arrival of the Aristotelian corpus in Latin translation
reopened the question of the relation between faith and reason,
calling into question the modus vivendi that had
obtained for centuries. This crisis flared up just as
universities were being founded.
- Thomas, after early studies at Montecassino, moved on to the
University of Naples, where he met members of the new Dominican
Order. It was at Naples too that Thomas had his first extended
contact with the new learning. When he joined the Dominican
Order he went north to study with Albertus Magnus, author of a
paraphrase of the Aristotelian corpus.
- Thomas completed his studies at the University of Paris, which
had been formed out of the monastic schools on the Left Bank and
the cathedral school at Notre Dame. In two stints as a regent
master Thomas defended the mendicant orders and, of greater
historical importance, countered both the Averroistic
interpretations of Aristotle and the Franciscan tendency to
reject Greek philosophy. The result was a new modus vivendi
between faith and philosophy which survived until the rise of
the new physics.
- Thomas's theological writings became regulative of the
Catholic Church and his close textual commentaries on Aristotle
represent a cultural resource which is now receiving increased
- modern philosophy:
- 17th C:
- Francis Bacon (1561–1626):
- a lawyer, member of Parliament, and Queen's Counsel, Bacon
wrote on questions of law, state and religion, as well as on
contemporary politics; but he also published texts in which he
speculated on possible conceptions of society, and he pondered
questions of ethics (Essays) even in his works on
natural philosophy (The Advancement of Learning).
- To the present day Bacon is well known for his treatises on
empiricist natural philosophy (The Advancement of Learning,
Novum Organum Scientiarum) and for his doctrine of the
idols, which he put forward in his early writings, as well as
for the idea of a modern research institute, which he described
in Nova Atlantis.
- Descartes (1596-1650) - a dualist:
- While the great philosophical distinction between mind and
body in western thought can be traced to the Greeks, it is to
the seminal work of René Descartes (1596-1650), French
mathematician, philosopher, and physiologist, that we owe the
first systematic account of the mind/body relationship.
- Descartes proposed a mechanism for automatic reaction in
response to external events. According to his proposal, external
motions affect the peripheral ends of the nerve fibrils,
which in turn displace the central ends. As the central ends are
displaced, the pattern of interfibrillar space is
rearranged and the flow of animal spirits is thereby
directed into the appropriate nerves. It was Descartes'
articulation of this mechanism for automatic, differentiated
reaction that led to his generally being credited with the
founding of reflex theory.
- In Descartes' conception, the rational soul, an entity
distinct from the body and making contact with the body at the
pineal gland, might or might not become aware of the
differential outflow of animal spirits brought about through the
rearrangement of the interfibrillar spaces. When such awareness
did occur, however, the result was conscious sensation -- body
affecting mind. In turn, in voluntary action, the soul might
itself initiate a differential outflow of animal spirits. Mind,
in other words, could also affect body.
- "Cartesian science" is that which was taught by
- Baruch Spinoza (1632-77):
- His thought combines a commitment to Cartesian metaphysical
and epistemological principles with elements from ancient
Stoicism and medieval Jewish rationalism into a nonetheless
highly original system.
- His extremely naturalistic views on God, the world, the human
being and knowledge serve to ground a moral philosophy centered
on the control of the passions leading to virtue and
- They also lay the foundations for a strongly democratic
political thought and a deep critique of the pretensions of
Scripture and sectarian religion.
- Of all the philosophers of the seventeenth-century, perhaps
none have more relevance today than Spinoza.
- John Locke (1632 - 1704):
- Much of Locke's work is characterized by opposition to
authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the
individual person and on the level of institutions such as
government and church.
- For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to
search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of
authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to
proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them.
- Thomas Hobbes (published 1642-81):
- is now widely regarded as one of a handful of truly great
political philosophers, whose masterwork Leviathan
rivals in significance the political writings of Plato,
Aristotle, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls.
- Hobbes is famous for his early and elaborate development of
what has come to be known as “social contract theory”, the
method of justifying political principles or arrangements by
appeal to the agreement that would be made among suitably
situated rational, free, and equal persons.
- He is infamous for having used the social contract method to
arrive at the astonishing conclusion that we ought to submit to
the authority of an absolute -- undivided and unlimited --
- 18th C:
- George Berkeley (1685-1753):
- He was a brilliant critic of his predecessors, particularly
Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke. He was a talented
metaphysician famous for defending idealism, that is, the view
that reality consists exclusively of minds and their ideas.
Berkeley's system, while it strikes many as counter-intuitive,
is strong and flexible enough to counter most objections.
- His most-studied works, the Treatise Concerning the
Principles of Human Knowledge (Principles, for
short) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous
(Dialogues), are beautifully written and dense with the
sort of arguments that delight contemporary philosophers.
- He was also a wide-ranging thinker with interests in religion
(which were fundamental to his philosophical motivations), the
psychology of vision, mathematics, physics, morals, economics,
- Although many of Berkeley's first readers greeted him with
incomprehension, he influenced both Hume and Kant, and is much
read (if little followed) in our own day.
- David Hume (1711-76):
- Generally regarded as the most important philosopher ever to
write in English, the last of the great triumvirate of
"British empiricists" -- was also noted as an
historian and essayist.
- influenced Immanuel Kant & Charles Darwin in particular.
- Immanuel Kant ( - 1804):
- Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815):
- theory of a universal magnetic fluid & use of magnets to
cure which led to a form of hypnotism ("mesmerism")
developed by his disciple Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet,
Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825) who founded psychotherapy.
- Mesmerism spread rapidly. In the United States it arrived from
France with Charles Poyen de Saint Sauveur and became allied
briefly with phrenology and more extensively with spiritualism,
eventuating in the New Thought movement that exerted an impact
on William James.
- 19th C:
- Georg Hegel (1770-1831):
- belongs to the period of “German idealism” in the decades
- The most systematic of the post-Kantian idealists, Hegel
attempted, throughout his published writings as well as in his
lectures, to elaborate a comprehensive and systematic ontology
from a “logical” starting point.
- He is perhaps most well-known for his teleological account of
history, an account which was later taken over by Marx and
“inverted” into a materialist theory of an historical
development culminating in communism.
- For most of the twentieth century, the “logical” side of
Hegel's thought had been largely forgotten, but his political
and social philosophy continued to find interest and support.
However, since the 1970s, a degree of more general philosophical
interest in Hegel's systematic thought has also been revived.
- James Braid (1843) and hypnotism:
- refuted the idea that something passed between people in
mesmerism, developed his theory of "nervous sleep"
produced by "a peculiar condition of the nervous system,
induced by a fixed and abstracted attention" which he
called hypnotism, but this still remained in the realm of
pseudo-science until Richet and Charcot in 1875, then Janet who
laid the foundations for Freud in the 1890's.
- Braid's linking hypnotic phenomena to brain physiology,
development of a straightforward, less mystical induction
technique, and introduction of a terminology that was more
acceptable to the medical and scientific establishment, helped
prepare the way for the eventual use of hypnosis in research on
- In a little over a hundred years, a huge corpus of evidence
and related neurological and psychological theory had led
irrevocably to the belief that mental events -- mesmeric trance
states, rapport, the therapist's will to cure, the concentration
of attention, mental suggestion, psychic trauma, the
dissociation of consciousness, and catharsis -- could effect
radical alterations in the state of the body. No psychologist
writing in the 1890s could afford to ignore this rich material
and its implications for conceptualization of the nature of the
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82):
- began his career as a Unitarian minister in Boston, but
achieved worldwide fame as a lecturer and the author of such
essays as "Self-Reliance," "History,"
"The Over-Soul," and "Fate."
- Drawing on English and German Romanticism, Neoplatonism,
Kantianism, and Hinduism, Emerson developed a metaphysics of
process, an epistemology of moods, and an
"existentialist" ethics of self-improvement.
- He influenced generations of Americans, from his friend Henry
David Thoreau to John Dewey, and in Europe, Friedrich Nietzsche,
who takes up such Emersonian themes as power, fate, the uses of
poetry and history, and the critique of Christianity.
- Max Stirner (1806-56):
- best known as the author of the idiosyncratic and provocative Der
Einzige und sein Eigenthum (1844). Familiar in English as The
Ego and Its Own (a more literal translation might be The
Individual and his Property), both the form and content of
Stirner's work are disconcerting.
- He challenges expectations about how political and
philosophical argument should be conducted, and seeks to shake
confidence in the superiority of contemporary civilisation. He
provides a sweeping attack on the modern world as dominated by
religious modes of thought and oppressive social institutions,
together with a brief sketch of a radical ‘egoistic’
alternative in which individual autonomy might flourish.
- The historical impact of The Ego and Its Own is not
easy to assess. However, Stirner's book can plausibly be claimed
to have had a destructive impact on his left-Hegelian
contemporaries, to have played a significant role in the
intellectual development of Karl Marx (1818-1883), and to have
influenced the tradition of individualist anarchism.
- Karl Marx (1818-1883):
- is best known not as a philosopher but as a revolutionary
communist, whose works inspired the foundation of many communist
regimes in the twentieth century. It is hard to think of many
who have had as much influence in the creation of the modern
- Trained as a philosopher, Marx turned away from philosophy in
his mid-twenties, towards economics and politics. However, in
addition to his overtly philosophical early work, his later
writings have many points of contact with contemporary
philosophical debates, especially in the philosophy of history
and the social sciences, and in moral and political philosophy.
Historical materialism — Marx's theory of history — is
centered around the idea that forms of society rise and fall as
they further and then impede the development of human productive
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900):
- challenged the foundations of traditional morality and
Christianity. He believed in life, creativity, health, and the
realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in
a world beyond.
- Central to Nietzsche's philosophy is the idea of
"life-affirmation," which involves an honest
questioning of all doctrines which drain life's energies,
however socially prevalent those views might be.
- Often referred to as one of the first
"existentialist" philosophers, Nietzsche has inspired
leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including
dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists,
philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.
- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970):
- a British philosopher, logician, essayist, and social critic,
best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic
- His most influential contributions include his defense of
logicism (the view that mathematics is in some important sense
reducible to logic), and his theories of definite descriptions
and logical atomism. Along with G.E. Moore, Russell is generally
recognized as one of the founders of analytic philosophy.
- Karl Popper (1902-)
- Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980):
- is arguably the best known philosopher of the twentieth
- he is commonly considered the father of Existentialist
philosophy, whose writings set the tone for intellectual life in
the decade immediately following the Second World War.
- identity theory of the mind - consciousness as a brain
- pioneering papers ‘Is Consciousness a Brain Process?’ by
U.T. Place (Place 1956, Adelaide) and H. Feigl ‘The
"Mental" and the "Physical"’ (Feigl 1958)
although Boring first used the term in 1933.
- computational theory of the mind (CTM) - the mind working
like a computer (Hilary Putnam 1961)
- developed most notably for philosophers by Jerry Fodor [1975,
1980, 1987, 1993]
- CTM combines a Representational Theory of Mind (RTM) with a
Computational Account of Reasoning (CAR).
- CTM rose to prominence as one of the most important theories
of mind in the 1980s.
- classical computational architectures employing rules and
- The most important philosophical benefit claimed for CTM was
that it purported to show how reasoning could be a
non-mysterious sort of causal process, and could nonetheless be
sensitive to semantic relations between judgments.
- through the 1980s and 1990s, many philosophers were convinced
by Fodor's claim that CTM is "the only game in town"
-- i.e., that the only accounts we have of cognitive processes
are computational, and that this implies the postulation of a
language of thought and operations performed over the
representations in that language. Given this argument that CTM
is implicit in the theories produced by the sciences of
cognition (see below), its additional ability to provide a
compatibility proof for physicalism and intentional realism
solidified its philosophical credentials by showing that this
interpretation of the sciences of cognition was philosophically
productive as well.
- neural network model of the mind:
- late 1980's.
- seek to model the dynamics of psychological processes, not
directly at the level of intentional states, but at the level of
the networks of neurons through which mental states are
- Smolensky (1987), argued that connectionist models were
importantly distinct from classical computational models in that
the processing involved took place (and hence the relevant level
of causal explanation must be cast) at a sub-symbolic level,
such as Smolensky's tensor-product encoding. Unlike processing
in a conventional computer, the process is distributed rather
than serial, there is no explicit representation of the rules,
and the representations are not concatenative.
- There is some general agreement that some of these
differences do not matter. Both sides are agreed, for
example, that processes in the brain are highly parallel and
distributed. Likewise, even in production-model computers,
it is only in stored programs that rules are themselves
represented; the rules hard-wired into the CPU are not.
- Several types of learning in particular seem to come
naturally to network architectures, and more recently
researchers such as Smolensky have produced results suggesting
that at least some features of language acquisition can be
simulated by his models as well.
- 21st C: