At first sight it seems strange to compare Whitehead and Bradley. They were Englishmen and metaphysicians, and they were born within 15 years of one another. But they seem to belong to different eras, for though Whitehead’s fame as a logician belongs to the early years of this century it was only gradually — long after Bradley’s death — that he came to be regarded as a major metaphysician. And in almost every respect they seem to clash.
The humanities create communities of meaning and the means to unify knowledge. Poets and novelists offer new insights into our shared mind. History provides our continuity. Philosophy struggles to unite our scientific knowledge with our understanding of values. Each discipline creates its own perspective and they often turn inward, creating new divisions. Yet a global view of the humanities is our hope of finding the means to live together in peace. But the argument in this article suggests that a philosophical (...) understanding of the basic concepts with which we order our claims about the world can provide a successful response. (shrink)
The thesis that enquiries into the nature and existence of God and enquiries into nature itself should be kept separate has gained new life from disputes about biology, but the development of physics and its relation to mathematics gives force to the idea that nature is more like a book to be read than it is like a collection of objects with no intrinsic meaning. The more one sees nature as a book to be read the more one sees it (...) as intrinsically intelligible. Intelligibility need not imply intelligence but the relation between the two is nonetheless a legitimate subject for investigation. (shrink)
The wager fragment in Blaise Pascal’s _Penseés _opens with the phrase "_infini rien_"—"infinite nothing"—which is meant to describe the human condition. Pascal was responding to what was, even in the seventeenth century, becoming a pressing human problem: we seem to be able to know much about the world but less about ourselves. The traditional European view of human beings as creatures made in the image of God and potentially capable of a mystical union with God was increasingly confounded by the (...) difficulty of finding God in nature. Despite his own scientific work, however, Pascal argued that if one does not know whether or not God exists, one should bet that he does: if one is right the rewards are infinitely good and, if one is wrong, what one has lost is, by comparison, utterly trivial. The argument behind this wager is one of the most celebrated—and disputed—in the history of philosophy. It has been seen in terms of the calculus of probabilities, as a piece of religious apologetic, as an event in the religious and psychological life of Pascal himself, and as an event in the life of the Jansenist movement and its various expressions at Port-Royal. In this book, Leslie Armour explores the underlying logic of ideas brought to the surface by the intersection of two philosophical lines of thought. He shows that Pascal had come to philosophy by way of two particular strands of Platonism, one strongly mystical, associated with the founder of the French Oratorian order, Pierre de Bérulle, and the other the Augustinian Platonism associated with Duvergier de Hauranne and Cornelius Jansen. At the same time Pascal was engaged in an internal struggle with skepticism. While he agreed that it is difficult to find God in physical nature, he disagreed with the claim that we know nothing of nature. The problem is that the human being is both infinite and nothing. Thus, Armour locates Pascal’s wager within the confluence of a vital neo-Platonism and an intellectually powerful skepticism. He concludes that even today, "If we must act and cannot know enough, we must bet.". (shrink)
The Faces of Reason traces the history of philosophy in English Canada from 1850 to 1950, examining the major English-Canadian philosophers in detail adn setting them in the context of the main currents of Canadian thought. The book concludes with a brief survey of the period after 1950. What is distinctive in Canadian philosophy, say the authors, is the concept of reason and the uses to which it is put. Reason has interacted with experience in a new world and a (...) cold climate to create a distinctive Canadian community. The diversity of political, geographic, social, and religious factors has fostered a particular kind of thinking, particular ways of reasoning and communicating. Rather than one grand, overarching Canadian way of thinking, there are “many faces of reason,” “a kind of philosophic federalism”. The book has two dimensions: “ it is a continuos story which makes a point about the development of philosophical reason in the Canadian context....it is a reference work which may be consulted by readers interested in particular figures, ideas, movements, or periods.”. (shrink)
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