Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A History of Philosophy

Just this morning I woke up (well, really, I resigned to opening my eyes, actually) and realised that I've been going about some of my studies on atheism and theism quite wrong. You see, I've studied theology formally, and have pursued it as a personal interest for a number of years now. In the midst of that, I've taken up philosophy almost incidentally: in the long run, you can't really study theology without dealing with philosophy.

So, in light of my academic shortcomings (which are many), I've decided to nuance my studies with a thorough-going study of the history of philosophy. My former philosophy professor, Dr. van der Breggen would be quite happy, I'm sure.

My choice for study? A 9 volume set I've been holding on to for a number of years, and have not ever read: A History of Philosophy, by Frederick Copleston, S.J. The first of the volumes is a compilation of three books, and looks as follows:
I'm looking forward to rounding out my mind with the thoughts of the intellectual giants of history. And it should prove entirely useful in my pursuit of understanding the academic thought life of the popular atheists en vogue these days.


Nick Wall said...

While reading about the philosopher Spinoza I realized that keeping note of the ethics behind philosophical ideas is important to fully understanding a philosophy. It is possible to missunderstand a philosophy especially when the context of the goal that spawned it is unknown. Often I used to hear how various "worldly" philosophies are foolish. However, without knowing the original ethic behind the philosophy, why choose to paint the world to be such a bad bunch of philosophers, or to auto delete what could be wisdom if the ethics were more clearly defined?

Have you considered ethics to be included in your study of philosophy? I find that in the long run, you can't really study philosophy without dealing with ethics. ;)

Christopher said...


Ethics is a branch of philosophy along with logic, metaphysics, et al. So, like you've noted, it's really almost impossible to study the history of philosophy without dealing with ethics at some point along the way. For example, while studying the pre-Socratic philosophers, I can look forward to eventually reading about Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, one of the most famous treatises on virtue and the moral life ever written.

And more to the point of the history of philosophy, the entire enterprise is for the sake of understanding the historical, psychological, and ethical context that a certain philosophy was/is couched in.

So, given your interest in the context surrounding philosophical viewpoints, you might enjoy reading the books I'm pursuing right now, once I'm done with them. Let me know, and we can work something out.


Anonymous said...

I have never knowingly been a student of philosophy. However, in the last few years, I have begun to realize that most, if not all of the decisions I make as a person are from a variety of philosophical view points, some even conflicting with each other. I suppose what has startled me, is that many of the philosophies I have held to, and often without ever calling them such, were not my own, but adopted from others, who adopted them from yet other individuals, etc. In essence, I have held life-directing philosophies based on other people's adopted life-directing philosophies, whose life-directing philosophies are based on other people's adopted philosophies, etc.
The answer for me has been to scrutinize the philosophical reasonings I hold for my life, which has included an appreciation for the ethics embedded within the philosophy.
It's been interesting. As I said, I am not an overt student of philosophical thought, and yet I am a being that lives by philosophical thought regardless of how sound they may be. It is akin to having an elephant living in one's home without actually seeing it, but feeling its weighty presence everyday.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts, of late, have been about my philosophy of love. As long as they do not remain just thoughts, I'm on the right track.
Sometimes we forget that just looking is rather empty.
I want a philosophy of love to live by. One that changes the world around me ... even in small ways.
I do agree that so much of what changes me comes from without. But if it is adopted and put into practice, it changes us within. It is transformational philosophy.

Nate Jacobson said...

I think Copleston's tomes are something of a right of passage for Christian philosophers, so you've started in a good place. And if nothing else, the spectrum of colors they create are a nice addition to any bookshelf :-)

Nick said...

J, thanks for the reminder. There is quite the difference between talking philosophy and living philosophy.
Live to love. And love to live.

I will now begin attempt #infinte. :)

Christopher said...

Some philosophy cannot actually be lived, but is simply information on aspects of existence; e.g., Cartesian dualism, monism, external world skepticism, etc. Abstractions in philosophy serve the purpose of generating a fertile mind wherein important questions and considerations for life can grow. The resultant answers may not actually be liveable much more beyond a conclusion.

I submit those same unlivable conclusions are just as valid as the philosophical out-takes we derive from pragmatic fields, like ethics.

Dr. V said...


Just a quick note to say that I am very happy about your decision to study the history of philosophy! I encourage you to take your time and seek understanding. (It helps if one carefully reads and re-reads a good critical thinking textbook or two along the way. It also helps if one carefully reads and re-reads Scripture along the way, too.)

Best regards,