History of philosophy I: ancient philosophy

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Schematic Outline

1. CONTEXT. (class 2)

Review of the system of HEGEL. Derivatives and critiques of idealistic systems, principally Hegelianism. Decline of rationalism. Fragmentation of philosophical thought. The continuing significance of Kant in recent philosophy.

2. DERIVATIVES OF IDEALISM: The “Right” Hegelians. (class 3)

a) SCHOPENHAUER; Bradley: Subjective idealism in metaphysics and ethics. The movement from reason to will; from optimism to pessimism. Pain and asceticism.
b) KIERKEGAARD; Royce: Critique of systematic abstraction. Existence and subjectivity. Fundamental existential categories (anguish, decision, freedom). The stages of man’s existence. Faith and reason.

3. CRITIQUES OF IDEALISM: The “Left” Hegelians. (class 4)

a) Feuerbach: Reduction of Hegelian theology to materialist anthropology. Philosophical atheism.
b) MARX: Dialectical materialism. Marxist sociologism and theory of history. Alienation. Division of labor and history as class struggle. The mission of capitalism. The concept of revolution and of revolutionary consciousness. From socialism to “classless society.” Subsequent decomposition and reappearances of Marxist thought.


a) COMTE; Renan; Durkheim; Moore: Scientific positivism. Comtean sociology. Science as the theology and philosophy of humanity. Philosophical skepticism. Empiricist ethics and relativism.
b) DARWIN; SPENCER; Taine; Teilhard de Chardin: Naturalistic scientism. Evolutionism and scientific reductionism. Philosophical aspects of evolutionist anthropology.

c) Dilthey; Poincaré; Duhem: Positivist philosophy of history. Physical positivism; empiricist philosophy of science.

5. VITALISM. (class 6)
+ a) Rosmini; BERGSON; Berdyaev: Reaction to materialism. Spiritualist anthropology. Science and time. Memory. Creative evolution. Morality and religion.
b) FREUD: Metapsychological view of man based on a materialist anthropology. The unconscious and repression. Psychoanalysis.


a) MILL; Schiller: The patrimony of Bentham. The utilitarian ethic. Its link to subjective individualism. The development of modern liberal humanism.

b) Peirce; JAMES; DEWEY: Flight from metaphysics as the basis of anthropology, psychology, and ethics. The pragmatic school and its progeny. The impact of Dewey’s instrumentalism on American culture.

a) Frege; Whitehead; RUSSELL: Mathematics as a philosophical tool. The quest for a new methodology in logical idealism. The return to rationalism.
b) Saussure: The discovery of philosophical linguistics. The development of structuralism.

8. PHENOMENOLOGY. (classes 9, 10)

+ a) HUSSERL; SCHELER: Critique of psychologism and relativism. Ontological reduction and transcendental intuition.
+ b) Stein; Hartmann: Intuition of values. The need for being. The strata of being. The persistence of philosophical realism.
c) HEIDEGGER: The critique of metaphysics in ontological phenomenology. Inauthentic and authentic existence. Time as a sense of being. Non-being.
d) Merleau-Ponty: Neo-Marxism in phenomenology.

9. FORMS OF EXISTENTIALISM. (classes 11, 12)

a) NIETZSCHE: The Nietzschean revolution in moral philosophy. The transvaluation of all values in the absence of a supreme Being. The “higher man” and his will to power. Nihilism as creative.
b) Ortega y Gasset; JASPERS; Buber: Existence as a philosophical theme. Existential pessimism. The attempt at a scientific existentialism.

+ c) Marcel: The ontological mystery. Being in itself and for itself. Existentialism and Christian humanism.

d) Camus; SARTRE: Nihilistic pessimism. The ambiguous and futile quest for closure.


+ a) Blondel: Right action as the end of philosophy.
+ b) LeSenne; Mounier: Existential antecedents of personalism. Moral choices in the presence of the other.
+ c) Von Hildebrand; WOJTYŁA: Phenomenological antecedents of personalism. The person as the end of action.


a) Marechal: Rediscovery of St. Thomas through modern spiritual transcendentalism. The fruitfulness of Pope Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris.
+ b) MARITAIN; Simon; Gilson: Thomistic applications to metaphysics and epistemology, ethics and politics.
+ c) Fabro; Wilhelmsen; Pieper: Applications of Thomism to the full range of modern life.


a) The Vienna Circle—WITTGENSTEIN; Ayer; Popper; Ryle: Anti-metaphysical reduction of method to logical analysis. The effort to discover a truly scientific epistemology. Linguistic analysis.
b) The Frankfurt School—Adorno; Horkheimer; Habermas: Derivation of social scientific methodology from Marxist categories.
c) Eclecticism—Marcuse: Freudian neo-Marxist liberationism.
d) Methodology—Gadamer; Quine; Lyotard; Rorty: Hermeneutics. Neo-Pragmatism. The return to nominalism. The appeal for consensus.
e) Neo-Structuralism—Levi-Strauss; Foucault; Derridá: Replacement of reasoning with artificial constructs. “Deconstructionism.”

13. NEO-CLASSICAL REVIVAL. (classes 18, 19)

+ Arendt; Voegelin; Anscombe; MacIntyre: Rediscovery of classical categories of metaphysics, psychology, and ethics in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.
Conclusion. (class 20)
Overall, the development of academic philosophy in the 20th century has culminated in a crisis of identity and generally futile attempts to define its proper role. In moral and political philosophy the opposing influences of Christian personalism and defense of human rights, on the one hand, and the forces of multiculturalism, relativism, and radical toleration, on the other hand, have led to widespread confusion in contemporary attempts to realize the ideal of democracy. An overview of the most influential philosophical tendencies of the past two centuries demonstrates the critical importance of attempting to recover the confident realism of classical and Christian philosophy.

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