Hellenistic and Early Modern Philosophy
Leading historians of philosophy explore the connections between Hellenistic and early modern philosophy by taking account of new scholarly and philosophical advances in these essays. There work provides invaluable point of reference for philosophers, historians of ideas and classicists. Read more Read less. Prime Book Box for Kids.
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- Hellenistic And Early Modern Philosophy by Jon Miller.
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Get to Know Us. The remaining article, Stephen Menn's "The Discourse on the Method and the Tradition of Intellectual Autobiography" is the one piece in the volume that takes a truly historical approach, in trying to determine sources and models and in describing with some precision the relationship between an early modern text and its ancient sources.
As a result, it offers stunning insight into the background of the first sections of Descartes' Discourse: It is a complex argument, but thoroughly satisfying, and leads to the important conclusion that Descartes' famous sceptical crisis may have had literary sources as well as psychological ones. The fact that I have said more about the one article in the volume that is more historical and less analytic in its approach to early modern philosophy -- despite the fact that the other papers are generally of high quality and considerable interest, even to a classicist -- will, I suspect, say more about me than about the volume.
My own interest in this material is historical, and I approached this volume with expectations of more history and less analysis, and perhaps more social and political theory and less ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. In that respect, I found the volume, despite its obvious merits, somewhat disappointing -- and so, indeed, did J. Schneewind in his surprising introduction which can serve, I should note, as a far better review than mine of the philosophical arguments of the contributors.
He too deplores the absence in most papers of historical context; he too feels that too many of the papers fail to ask the historical questions that the uses of Hellenistic philosophy in the seventeenth century pose: As Schneewind notes, the volume draws attention to its own failure to address the historical questions the absence of which is so immediately apparent. In that regard, it is perhaps ungrateful but not inappropriate to point out a few other gaps.
The name of Hobbes -- despite the fact that his deployment of Epicurean-materialist arguments in the opening chapters of Leviathan is crucial for his argument -- is not in the index he is named in passing perhaps four times in the volume , nor is that of Marin Mersenne, the influential correspondent of Descartes, Hobbes, Gassendi and Galileo. In another direction, the name of Machiavelli is equally absent, despite the fact that as Quentin Skinner has shown in detail The Prince is hugely indebted to De Officiis.
Miller strangely comments , n. When I first received Hellenistic and Early Modern Philosophy , the fact that its introduction was by Schneewind, whose The Invention of Autonomy Cambridge, is now the standard history of early modern ethics, and that it was published by Cambridge, which has published many important books in the history of ideas -- some of them in the "Ideas in Context" series, of which Schneewind is, along with Quentin Skinner, an editor -- led me to expect a far more historical approach than the volume in fact displays.
Hellenistic And Early Modern Philosophy
That does not detract from its obvious value for philosophers but makes it considerably less useful for historians, even historians of philosophy. The close examination of philosophic arguments, and the attempt in some of these articles to do philosophy as well as to study its history, is obviously worthwhile; the analyses here of Grotius and Spinoza, of Leibniz, Butler and Hume will in fact be useful to students of their Hellenistic predecessors. But the comparison of two philosophic worlds in different historical periods is strangely a-historical; and the fact that in other areas of intellectual history -- notably political thought -- so much has been done in the last few decades to explore the ancient sources of early modern arguments makes this volume useful to a narrower group of readers than might otherwise have been the case.
The attempt to build a bridge between ancient and early modern philosophy is very welcome; but the gap between politics and ethics that this volume reveals is the history of ethics that this volume reveals is a clear indication that there are more bridges remaining to be built. On Mersenne, "one of the most important figures in the history of modern thought," see Richard Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza , ed.
Rogers and Alan Ryan eds. Philosophy and Government, Cambridge, One should also mention the work of Knud Haakonssen: Natural Law and Moral Philosophy: I am grateful to BMCR's reader for improving some of my unnecessarily murky prose. Bryn Mawr Classical Review Cambridge University Press,