Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Review of Metaphysics 48 (4):887-889 (1995)
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Abstract

Brumbaugh divides Western philosophic systems into four families: Platonist, Aristotelian, Democritean, and Anaxagorean. He plots these on a graph with the X-axis designating the method of the system and the Y-axis the direction. Method refers to the system's tendency to employ either dialectical thinking in emphasizing the whole or analysis in emphasizing the parts out of which the whole is constructed. He uses Richard McKeon's terms "holoscopic" for the former, and "meroscopic" for the latter. Direction refers to the system's emphasis on form or matter. The four possible combinations are graphed by Brumbaugh. Both axes are needed, "for the forms of the formalists may be hierarchical and continuous, as Plato's are, or actual only for a discrete set, as are Aristotle's. And the 'matter' of the y direction can be either the hard, insulated particles of Democritus' atomic theory or the continuous flow of Heraclitean process".

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