Narrative on Philosophy
Philosophy is one of the most complicated parts of humanities. This discipline asks crucial and complex questions about the definition of being, the purpose of existence, and meaning of life. It is not possible to study philosophy beyond the context of the centuries-old traditions. The awareness of traditions of philosophical thought already implies the knowledge of philosophy. However, it is possible to philosophize only individually, and only an extraordinary person can form an opinion within such perception of reality, which would mean a “new word” in the history of philosophy. If the primary content of any science is a combination of the most recent achievements, each of which can devalue the previous ones, then philosophy is the totality of timeless content of historically specific philosophical systems. The uniqueness of the personality of the philosophers unites the content of philosophical systems. Among the numerous philosophers of all times, it is possible to distinguish five most important personalities that tried to solve the essential questions of humanity and laid the foundations for philosophical thought. Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Benedict De Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Paul Sartre are the most influential people in the history of philosophical thought formation.
The history of philosophy is the sphere of knowledge, which in comparison with other branches of knowledge has a unique attitude to the original area the philosophy itself (Coplestone,1993, p.8). It would be primitive to reduce language in attempt to define some of its priorities because proving the primacy of history of philosophy as the philosophical discipline is not the main point. The crucial issue is the interpenetration of philosophy and its history, the historical dimension of philosophizing as an inalienable context of the statement of any philosophical problem (Grayling, 1998, p.1). The history of philosophy knows the thinkers who tried to start everything from the beginning, deliberately rejected the achievements of predecessors, and proclaimed themselves the founders of a new philosophy. However, it was impossible to avoid historicity entirely. Heidegger, for example, disregarded all previous philosophical achievements, such as Platos metaphysics, yet found meaningful sources in the pre-Socratic philosophy (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). In addition, while postmodernism rejected the suppression of traditional meta-narratives of classical era, from time to time, it draws attention to the historic philosophical subjects, finding points of contact, intersection, or confrontation of thought in the past. However, specific historical nature of philosophical thought is not revealed, meaning that the final and complete answer to the question of the relationship between philosophy and history of philosophy has not been found. The attempts to show their interconnectedness may be one-sided if independent existence of history of philosophy is not taken into account. Regardless of artificial distribution of philosophical disciplines, the existence of historical and philosophical science as a separate, independent field of knowledge should be considered.
Historical and philosophical sciences provide the construction of paradigms in which philosophers remove the details and make the inequality between historical and philosophical processes smoother. Philosophical systems of the past are comprehended through their essential features to create a general idea of ??their role and meaning. However, any scheme is vital only when it is built from the material itself and is not imposed from the outside. In this case, typology of philosophy systems is possible only on the basis of their comprehension as a form of life that combines true and proper, general and partial, as well as primary intuition and the process of its deployment and utterance. The paradigm of the history of philosophy appears not as axiomatic and presupposed, but as a way of the existence of philosophy where the circle of eternal philosophical questions and answers is refracted and refined. If philosophy has the relationship between man and the world as its subject, which is realized in the process of philosophizing, then the subject of the history of philosophy is historical process, the history of formation of philosophical knowledge (Coplestone,1993, p.11). History is combined with the evolution of man as a special kind of spiritual-natural creature (History of Philosophy, 2016). In this formation, the subject-matter form of reflection, subject-defining method of cognitive organization, and organization of the world have a crucial role (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.) This principle manifests itself not only at the pre-philosophical mythological stage of formation of human consciousness, but also at the first stage of historical and philosophical knowledge in ancient philosophy (Coplestone,1993, p.12).
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Making a review of the ancient Greek philosophy, the scientists distinguish Plato’s student Aristotle as the brightest representative of classical philosophers (History of Philosophy, 2016). Both Socrates and Plato were powerful thinkers of ancient philosophy, but after reading the works of Aristotle, many scientists realized that this person was a great enlightener among other things. Aristotle was born in 384 B.C in Thracian city of Stagir, in the family of a doctor at the court of Macedonian King Amentias II. At the age of 17, he joined the Plato Academy and stayed there for twenty years (Strebor, 2016). After the death of Plato, Aristotle made a decision to leave the Academy, traveled a lot, and gave lectures (Coplestone, 1993, p.89). In 343-335 BC, Aristotle served as a tutor and mentor of Alexander the Great (Coplestone, 1993, p.90). In 335 BC, the philosopher founded a philosophical school called Licey in Athens (Strebor, 2016). Aristotle wrote many works, the majority of which were lost as Platos (Strebor, 2016). The philosopher had many students, and modern scholars often find it difficult to determine the belonging of one or another work to the great thinker. According to the list of Arab translators, Aristotles legacy contains 1,000 books. The modern collection of works of the ancient philosopher includes works on logic (The Organon, two Analysts, Topic), works on natural sciences (Physics, On the Heavens, On the Universe), and works on biology (On the Soul, On the Origin of Animals”, etc.) (Coplestone, 1993, p.90). Treatises preserved on the subject of first philosophy were subsequently included into the collection called Metaphysics. Ethics was set forth in the books of Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemons Ethics. In addition, Aristotle had some socio-political writings, such as Politic and Politics, which contained the constitutions of 158 Greek states (Strebor, 2016). Furthermore, the philosopher wrote works on poetic art and rhetoric titled Poetics and Rhetoric (Coplestone, 1993, p. 90). Aristotle became the first scientist who made a versatile system of philosophy the foundation of many modern sciences. In his teaching, he does not deny the categorical substance of the general and only considers the knowledge that he could find in any single general principle as scientific (Coplestone, 1993, p. 90). Furthermore, Aristotle invented a four causes theory that explains the nature of change (Strebor, 2016). According to the philosopher, the substance that creates a certain thing is its material cause (Strebor, 2016). The formal cause is based on the arrangement of the thing, and the efficient cause is characterized by the origin of the thing, while the final cause lies in the objects purpose (Strebor, 2016). Studying biological aspects of life, Aristotle suggested that all life has derived from the sea due to the gradual development of less-complex life forms (Strebor, 2016). As a result, many years later, Charles Darwin proved Aristotles theory after conducting numerous biological inspections and experiments (Strebor, 2016). Aristotle was the founder of formal logic (History of Philosophy, 2016). His views on the physical side of the world greatly influenced the further development of human thought.
In the epoch of Early Modern Philosophy, Rene Descartes started the revolution of philosophical thought and established the new doctrine of Rationalism (History of Philosophy, 2016). The philosopher was born on March 31, 1596, in the city La Haye en Touraine in the Loire Valley in central France, which is now called Descartes city (Coplestone,1993, p. 335). Descartes father Joachim was a nobleman, a lawyer by profession, and magistrate in the High Court of Justice (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). In 1604, he started attending the Jesuit College Royal Henry-Le-Grand, where Rene Descartes learned about classical sciences, logic, and traditional Aristotelians philosophy (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). The peculiarities of the educational process in Jesuit College contributed not only to the accumulation of positive knowledge, but also to the formation of a proper attitude to the subject of study (Coplestone,1993, p. 335). In 1618, Descartes volunteered to go to the army, where he received the opportunity to study philosophy. After military service, the philosopher stayed in Paris, where he detailed the elaboration of his philosophical method. In 1628, he traveled to Holland to improve his educational abilities. During the twenty years of his stay in Holland, Descartes created the Rules for the Direction of the Mind with the preceding sketch of the rules of the method, and the “Treatise on the Universe” in defense of Copernicus (Smith, 2014). Next, in 1637, the philosopher published a methodological study Discourse on the Method (Coplestone, 1993, p. 335). The Discourse sketched out the metaphysical foundation of the Cartesian system (Smith, 2014). The core idea of Descartes philosophical method was the rejection of the authority of preceding thinkers and even of the idea to trust only the clearly and distinctly seen phenomena or objects which existence was beyond any doubt (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). Next, Descartes wrote such works as Metaphysical Criticisms and Principles of Philosophy (Coplestone, 1993, p. 336). After an unwelcome perception of these writings in 1649, Rene Descartes left for Sweden, accepting the invitation of Swedish Queen. However, at the beginning of 1650, he suffered from pneumonia and died (Coplestone, 1993, p. 337). These days, Descartes is known as the author of the method of radical doubt in philosophy, as well as Rationalism, Reductionism, and Dualism of mind and body.
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After Rene Descartes, the second famous representative of Rationalism was Benedict Spinoza. The philosopher was born on November 24, 1632, in Amsterdam, in a Jewish family (Dutton, n.d.). Between 1652 and 1656, Spinoza studied Latin and sciences at the school of Francis van den Endem, which helped him get acquainted with the worlds classics and contemporary prominent philosophers such as Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Tomas Hobbes (Coplestone, 1993, p. 376). At the age of 24, Jewish community excommunicated Spinoza, mainly due to his ideas that contradicted the traditions traditionally established in the society. After moving to Hague, Benedict Spinoza was earning a living by grinding lenses and giving private lessons (Dutton, n.d.). In the free time between the lessons, he wrote philosophical treatises. Benedict Spinoza died in 1677, at the age of 44, from tuberculosis (Coplestone,1993, p. 377). The works of the philosopher represent a synthesis of scientific ideas of the Middle Ages and Ancient Greece, the philosophy of the Stoics, Neoplatonism, and scholastics. Spinoza wrote his first work, A Short Treatise on God, Man and His Happiness, approximately in 1660. In 1661, he finished Treatise on the Perfection of Reason. However, Spinozas main work Ethics was published only after his death in 1677, and was dated back to approximately 1661 (Coplestone,1993, p. 377). The only work that was published during his lifetime and under his name was the Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy, Proven by the Geometric Method with the addition of Metaphysical Measurements (Coplestone, 1993, p. 377). Analyzing Spinozas philosophical conceptions, the scientists outlined Ethics as a crucial work that provides an ethical view on metaphysics, in which God and Nature are identified (Dutton, n.d.). Spinoza rethought the perception of omnipotence and presented Nature as an endless, essential, and fully deterministic system with humans as a part of it (Dutton, n.d.). According to Spinoza, people obtain happiness only through a rational consideration of this system and their role in it. In addition, Spinoza employed the viewpoint of Moral Relativism, according to which nothing is inherently good or bad apart from the degree to which an individual is subjectively perceived (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.).
The innovations of the 19th-century philosophy are best known due to the works of Immanuel Kant. Kant was an outstanding German philosopher and scientist, the creator of the system of Critical Idealism, the founder of German classical philosophy (Coplestone,1993, p. 435). Kant was born in 1724 in the city of Konigsberg, in the family of artisans (Coplestone, 1993, p. 435). After graduating from elementary school and gymnasium, he entered the Konigsberg University in 1740, graduating in 1745 (Rohlf, 2010). From 1747 to 1754, Kant worked as a home teacher. After that, he worked as assistant professor and lecturer in Konigsberg University, where later he became the rector (Coplestone, 1993, p. 435). The ideological development of Kant had two periods: subcritical and critical. Kant dated the beginning of his original work as a thinker and writer to 1770 the year of defense of his dissertation On the Form and Principles of the Sensual and Intelligible World (Coplestone,1993, p. 435). This division reflected two qualitatively different stages of his philosophical creativity. The starting point and the basis of Kants system of critical idealism is a man and his freedom. He stated that Man is a compendium of the world, the most important object in the world, meaning that philosophy is intended to answer only one question: What is a man? (Rohlf, 2010). From the point of antinomy, an individual lives in two worlds: in the world of natural necessity and spiritual morality, in the world of freedom. Hence, Kant divided the doctrinal philosophy into two basic parts: metaphysics of nature and metaphysics of morality (Rohlf, 2010). Necessities and freedom are the sources of the antinomy of criticism. Due to basic two questions, the critical part of Kants philosophy is divided into Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and Critique of Practical Reason”(1785), in which two main forms of human life, cognition and practice (morality), are explored (Coplestone,1993, p. 436). As these forms are unilateral due to their opposites, Kant looked for a one-sided form. A form that unites theory and practice is aesthetic activity. The philosopher investigated it in the third part of the critical entry into the system Critique of Judgment (1790) (Coplestone,1993, p. 436). Kant found the basis for such division in a human soul, which had fuor major aspects: cognition, willingness, and sensual pleasure, and dissatisfaction (Rohlf, 2010). Each of the forms of human life is oriented toward its ideal, which is also an absolute value. The ideal of cognitive activity is the truth, of practical one goodness, and of aesthetic one beauty. The formula of Kants philosophical system is truth, goodness, and beauty, taken in their unity.
In the philosophy of the 20th century, the Existentialism movement commenced, with the central figure of Jean-Paul Sartre (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). Sartre was known as a committed Marxist, a confirmed Atheist, and a communist. He dedicated most of his life to adaptation and extension of the works of Kierkegaard, Husserl, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, and came to conclusion that existence is prior to essence (Coplestone,1993, p. 896). Jean-Paul Sartre was born in 1905 in Paris (Onof, 2016). After his fathers death and some unpleasant experiences at school, the philosopher finished High School at Henri IV Lyceum in Paris (Onof, 2016). In 1924, he entered the prominent Ecole Normale Superieure, where he got acquainted with Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and his future wife, Simone de Beauvoir (Coplestone, 1993, p. 897). After teaching philosophy in a lyceum in Le Havre, Sartre received a grant to come to Berlin for studying in the French Institute (Onof, 2016). In Berlin, the philosopher learned about phenomenology and, as a result, wrote the work The Transcendence of the Ego (Onof, 2016). In 1936, Sartre managed to publish his research on imagination, and in 1938, his Theory of Emotions came to world. The Second World War influenced the further works of Sartre. During that period, Sartre wrote his existentialist meditation Being and Nothingness (Onof, 2016). The philosopher participated in a Resistance group and taught in a lyceum until the end of the war. Sartre believed that individuals always have choices and freedom (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). Moreover, freedom requires moral responsibility as well as existential dread (Coplestone,1993, p. 896). Jean-Paul Sartre believed that it is possible to become a genuine human being by the active acceptance of despair (Basics of Philosophy, n.d.). The philosopher highlighted the ability of consciousness to break away from reality (Coplestone,1993, p. 896). The process of cleansing the consciousness from the psychological layers and content conditioned by the perception of reality developed the notion of pure consciousness, which is transparent to itself. Sartre distinguishes such types of being as being-in-yourself, or the substantive being, and being-for-yourself, or the existence of human consciousness (Coplestone,1993, p. 897). Being-in-yourself comprises absolute motionless, passivity, and impenetrability of consciousness. A meeting of consciousness with indifferent being causes a feeling of nausea (Sartre, 1966). The subject being is devoid of any “human” definitions hence, there is no movement, formation, and activity. Subjects only self-sufficient definition is that Being is what it is (Sartre, 1966). Unlike “being-in-yourself”, “being-for-yourself” has features of absolute mobility, fluidity, activity, and emptiness (Coplestone,1993, p. 897). Consciousness has nothing substantive it exists only as it appears. Sartre (1966) substantiated ontologism as the objectivity and self-sufficiency, a sphere of nothing revealed by him, which became the determining characteristic of human existence.
Among all aforementioned works, Descartes Discourse on method is one of the most relevant philosophical tendencies in the modern world. It teaches people to think critically and to find evidence of the validity of opinions and suggestions. The philosopher doubted even his existence, seeing no proof needed for differentiating reality from sleep or imagination. Descartes has invented the true method of life perception that does not depend on the epoch, cultural peculiarities of the thinkers, and religious conceptions. The method of doubt is widely used among philosophers and causes the emergence of new trends.
To conclude, philosophy is a multi-spectral science that reflects world perception and insight trends of different epochs. The history of philosophy and the science itself is interconnected and interdependent. In different periods, philosophers have been studying basic notions of worldview such as being, consciousness, brain, soul, reality, and God from different perspectives. The main idea of philosophy is to describe life processes that determine humans existence and explain their key elements. The history of philosophy, in its turn, traces the patterns of the formation of philosophic outlooks.