- Paperback: 285 pages
- Publisher: Ignatius Press (October 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 089870748X
- ISBN-13: 978-0898707489
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unity of Philosophical Experience Paperback – October 1, 1999
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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."
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. However there have been many cycles in the history were postulations of a "metaphysical" entirety of truth have lead to philosophical cycles of argumentation, sometimes with real physical consequences. These cycles have turned into philosophical battles between true metaphyics and the false. The most recent false metaphicans have been Hegel, Kant, Carte, Hume, Descartes, and William of Ockham, plus their various disciples. The first cycle, Gilson defines, is that of Thales, 2,600 years ago, claiming all is an absolute of everything being air, followed by Anaximenes claiming everything was not air but water, and then Heraclitus caliming all is fire, then the first synthasis of this absurdity was Anaxaimander saying that the common things of all this stuff was indeterminable.
Gilson spends most of his effort, 99% of it, in defining the modern and medieaval cycles of metaphysical certatude and the resulting problems. Any summary of it would not do it justice.
The importance of this book to historians and pilosophers and historians of philosophy is immense. I don't know of any other book which so vividly paints a picture of modern thinking and how "it" got here than this book. Although I must admit I got hopelessly lost in the discriptions of Descarte's postulations, but the thesis of Descartes was made clear. One could go on forever about this book it is a cornicopia of ideas for further study and expansion. Highly recommended for any student of history or philosophy. Gilson brings a view that cannot be ignored. The question I have for Gilson, if I could ask it, is does Gilson agree that error illuminates the truth, as Aquinas did, and further, if error is good.
Gilson convincingly argues that there is unity to the philosophical experience and this experience is illuminating on the nature of man and perhaps more.