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The Unity of Philosophical Experience Paperback – October 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 269 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Pr (October 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089870748X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707489
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on June 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is part history of philosophy, part history of philosophizing, and -- and its own way -- part introduction to philosophy. In so doing, Etienne Gilson shows the "unity of philosophical experience" through a study of important philosophers.
Etienne Gilson was one of the greatest historians of philosophy in the 20th century. His brilliance shows throughout this work and so much could be quoted. For example: "As soon as Descartes published it, it became apparent that, like Caesar's wife, the existence of the world should be above suspicion . . . . Descartes had endeavored to prove something that could not be proved, not beacause it is not true, but on the contrary, beacause it is evident." (p. 146.)
If you are new to the study of philosophy, get this book for an introduction; if you are familiar with philosophy, this is a great "refresher course."
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Neri on March 8, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lectures given by Etienne Gilson in 1936 at Harvard. Gilson defines the coming war, World War II, as a philosophical war of two different heads of Hegelianism. Communism, which is inspired by a look forward, into what will be, and helping it along (all conjecture of course); and the Hitlarian (Romantic) looking to the past. Thus Hitler's paganism and his desire to rid Europe of all nonindigionious elements, especially Semetic. Christianity, after all, is a conquering force upon the natural purity and indigoniousness of Europe. It is a glorification of what man, or more importantly, a nation (peoples) would be had they been left in their natural state uncorupted by foreign elements. A Darwinian, Rousousian, Kantian mix (among others) that created the ultranationalistic Romanticism. Gilson defines these misguided principles (still the dominant principles of today) as leading to a future tragic bloody war. But it also explains why Japan, in WWII, wished to be rid of Americanism in their culture, and of any foreign influences. Anyway it leads to extreme nationalism that is just an end result of Romanticism. The problems with defining the truth of Hitler to modern minds is we are not far removed from the thesis and antithesis of his metaphyiscal plain.
The most important thesis of the book, however, is Gilson's defense that philosophy and more importantly metaphysics is a process and not a conclusion. Once one has made metaphysics a conclusion it ceases to be Metaphysics. Metaphyics can supose a greater truth, like an octagon being closer to a circle than a hexagon, but to incompus all truth is at least a human impossibility.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Spezio on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
After almost missing brilliant Stanley Jaki, Benedictine priest, physicist, and consummate philosopher/historian of science because of his Catholicism; I smartened up. You wouldn't want to miss Einstein or Bertrand Russell either, would you? Okay, ditto for Jaki and Gilson. It was Stanley Jaki who sent me on to Gilson. I am a very fallen away Catholic with all the attendant hostilities, but I learned plenty from Gilson's The Unity of Philosophical Experience. Whatever your persuasions; if you respect intelligenge, methodical realism, and honesty, Jaki and Gilson are well worth your time.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Schmittle on November 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gilson's work is composed of four parts. In each of the first three parts he explores the advent and demise of a philosophical system (the Medieval experiment, the Cartesian experiment, the Modern experiment) and identifies the recurring fatal attribute contained in each: the application of a particular science (logic, mathematics, science respectively) to the investigation of first principles. The successive failures of these systems has led to the "natural" but not "logical" modern conclusion that metaphysics is impossible. Gilson rejoins that simply because no one has ever succeeded in forming a complete metaphysical system that "explains" all reality doesn't spell the death of metaphysics. Such an enterprise isn't the goal of metaphysics to begin with, and anyone attempting such an undertaking is doomed before he starts. One cannot start with a method and attempt to encapsulate being since being is inexhaustible. Rather, one must start with being and work his way out. As Gilson observes, "Man is not a mind that thinks, but a being who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful." The metaphysician must accept being a priori and interpret it anew for each generation. Metaphysics is not dead or static, but alive and as new as each succeeding moment. The nihilism which marks the present age is the result of systems imposing themselves upon being which results in frustration and emptiness. It is only when one allows being to reveal itself to us that any meaning can be derived from existence.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C Hill on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not too many books in philosophy or about philosophy deserve to be called delightful, but this is one such book. Originally delivered as lectures--and that's when philosophers are at their best--this work is part history of philosophy, part criticism, part positive doctrine. What Gilson succeeds doing better than most is writing a story of Medieval and modern philosophy. A single narrative that weaves through the various thematic threads and keeps them all in sight. We learn about the continuity of thought and what specific concerns a philosopher had with his predecessors. In Medieval philosophy, he concentrates on later and more obscure thinkers. He spends a lot of time--too much--on Descartes, laying out and paraphrasing his method and reactions to it.

There's a pattern in the history of philosophy. A pattern of error. One philosopher's enthusiastic and idealistic doctrine will be taken by his followers to its ultimate conclusions, which then leads invariably to skepticism. The way out of skepticism has been mysticism or moralism. The book lays out how this happens in Medieval times, with Descartes, and in Modern philosophy after Descartes. He does not focus much on mysticism because that pertains to religion more than philosophy.

He concludes his book by telling us how all these philosophers have erred- repeatedly. And in doing so he gives us the guidelines, the principles, of what a philosopher would have to do in order to avoid repeating the same error again.
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