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By Louis Dupré

A breathtaking survey of the philosophical panorama of the Enlightenment interval (1648 - 1789), protecting the experience of selfhood, paintings and aesthetics, morality, social conception, technology of historical past, faith and religion in the course of that interval. the arrival of contemporary technology, relatively the mechanism of Newtonian thought, knocked down a number of the medieval ideas concerning the cosmos, windfall, production and human's position on the planet, and ushered in rationalism because the mainstream contemplating the Enlightenment interval. this doesn't suggest key thinkers during this interval have been of 1 or comparable stripe. They held varied, and infrequently diametrical, perspectives. Louis Dupre summarizes and reviews at the perspectives of key philosophical figures during this interval, together with Locke, Hume, Diderot, Rousseau, Leibniz, Lessing, Spinoza, Kant, and so on. The textual content is slightly dense, particularly for the uninitiated, however it is easily obtainable. total, it's a first-class survey of the philosophical perspectives of the interval.

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Reason ceases to be an ultimate good. Henceforth it functions in a system where everything has become both end and means. It has ceased to be an ultimate goal. Yet, as we saw, that was only one current in the dialectic of the Enlightenment. A countermovement, intent on saving the traditional content of reason paralleled this functionalism. It rarely spoke with the eloquence and confidence of the rationalist voice. Moreover, it fell back upon a tradition that was under fire and whose advocates seldom possessed the critical weapons needed to defend it.

Everything happens necessarily A Different Cosmos 33 and forms part of an uninterrupted chain of cause and effect. ‘‘Chance’’ and ‘‘freedom’’ merely describe series of events where we fail to perceive the causal link. D’Holbach ascribes unlimited powers to nature. It suffices to consider matter to be animated by motion, rather than dead and inert, to understand the entire order of nature as self-produced (I, 5, 38). A secret theology has wormed its way into his deterministic system. Nature becomes personified, endowed with divine attributes, and invested with a capacity to act in view of self-chosen ends.

Diderot’s more dynamic materialism succeeded far better in synthesizing mechanism with organic being. To La Mettrie’s ‘‘dead’’ mechanism he opposed a concept of matter that possessed creative powers capable of exceeding 28 A Different Cosmos the purely mechanical. He saw those forces at work in the generative process. New life results from the union of sperm and ovum, neither one of which, he thought, has a life of its own. In his early Philosophical Thoughts (1746) he had still held that generative creativity was restricted to the species and that it required a transcendent design.

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