The History of Western Philosophy


THE conceptions of life and the world which we call “philosophical” are a product of two factors:
one, inherited religious and ethical conceptions; the other, the sort of investigation which may be
called “scientific,” using this word in its broadest sense. Individual philosophers have differed
widely in regard to the proportions in which these two factors entered into their systems, but it is
the presence of both, in some degree, that characterizes philosophy.

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MANY histories of philosophy exist, and it has not been my purpose merely to add one to their
number. My purpose is to exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life: not as
the isolated speculations of remarkable individuals, but as both an effect and a cause of the
character of the various communities in which different systems flourished. This purpose
demands more account of general history than is usually given by historians of philosophy. I have
found this particularly necessary as regards periods with which the general reader cannot be
assumed to be familiar. The great age of the scholastic philosophy was an outcome of the reforms
of the eleventh century, and these, in turn, were a reaction against previous corruption. Without
some knowledge of the centuries between the fall of Rome and the rise of the medieval Papacy,
the intellectual atmosphere of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries can hardly be understood. In
dealing with this period, as with others, I have aimed at giving only so much general history as I
thought necessary for the sympathetic comprehension of philosophers in relation to the times that
formed them and the times that they helped to form.


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