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Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

A history of philosophy

by Wilhelm Windelband


The more varied the character assumed by the problems and content of philosophy in the course of time, the more the question rises, what meaning there can be in uniting in historical investigation and exposition products of thought which are not only so manifold, but also so different in kind, and between which there seems to be ultimately nothing in common but the name.

For the anecdotal interest in this checkered diversity of various opinions on various things, which was perhaps formerly the chief motive of a "History of Philosophy," stimulated too by the remarkable and strange nature of many of these views, cannot possibly serve as the permanent centre of a genuine scientific discipline.

1. At all events, however, it is clear that the case stands otherwise with the .history of philosophy than with that of any other science. For with all these the field of research remains fixed, on the whole at least, however many the variations to which its extent, its separation from a still more general field, and its limitation with reference to neighbouring fields, may be subject in the course of history. In such a case there is no difficulty in tracing the development of knowledge over a field which can be determined in this way, and in eventually making just those variations intelligible as the natural consequences of this development of insight.

1 The best evidence for this statement is afforded by just the passionate attacks which Schopenhauer directed against the relation between philosophy and the universities.

Quite otherwise, however, in the case of philosophy, which has no such subject-matter common to all its periods, and whose "his- / tory," therefore, sets forth no constant advance or gradual approximation to a knowledge of the subject in question. Rather, it has always been emphasised that while in other sciences, a quiet building up of knowledge is the rule, as soon as they have once gained a sure methodical footing after their rhapsodical beginnings,—a. rule which is interrupted only from time to time by a sudden new beginning,—in philosophy the reverse is true. There it is the exception that successors gratefully develop what has been already achieved, and each of the great systems of philosophy begins to solve its newly formulated problem db ovo, as if the other systems had scarcely existed.

2. If in spite of all of this we are still to be able to speak of a " history of philosophy," the unity of connection, which we find neither in the objects with which philosophers busy themselves, nor in the problems they have set themselves, can be found only in the common, work which they have accomplished in spite of all the variety in their subject-matter and in the purposes with which they have worked.

But this common product, which constitutes the meaning of the history of philosophy, rests on just the changing relations which the work of philosophers has sustained in the course of history, not only to the maturest results of science in general and of the special sciences in particular, but also to the other activities of European civilisation. For was it that philosophy had in view the project of a general scientific knowledge of the universe, which she would win either in the role of universal science, or as a generalising comprehension of the results of the special sciences, or was it that she sought a view of life which should give a complete expression to the highest values of will and feeling, or was it finally that with a clearly defined, limitation of her field she made reason's self-knowledge her goal, \- the result always was that she was labouring to bring to conscious expression the necessary forms and principles in which the human reason manifests its activity, and to transfer these from their original form of perceptions, feelings, and impulses, into that of conceptions^ In some direction and in some fashion every philosophy has striven to reach, over a more or less extensive field, a formulation in conception of the material immediately given in the world and in life; and so, as these efforts have passed into history, the constitution of the mental and spiritual life has been step by step disclosed. The History of Philosophy is the process in which European humanity has embodied in scientific conceptions its views of the world and its judgments of life.

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