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Philosophy of the New Age and Enlightenment

Philosophy of the New Age and Enlightenment

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Philosophy of the New Age and Enlightenment

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  1. Philosophy of the New Age and Enlightenment • General characteristics of the New Age philosophy. • F. Bacon’s philosophy • The philosophy of R. Descartes, B. Spinoza, G. Leibniz • French materialism of the XVIII century, D. Diderot, J. J. Rousseau

  2. The peculiar features of the New Age philosophy • Many things had occurred in the intellectual, religious, political, and social life of Europe to justify the belief of 16th- and 17th-century thinkers in the genuinely new character of their times. The explorations of the world; the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on individual faith; the rise of commercial urban society; and the dramatic appearance during the Renaissance of new ideas in all areas of culture stimulated the development of a new philosophical worldview.

  3. The peculiar features of the New Age philosophy • The medieval view of the world as created and governed by God was supplanted by the mechanistic picture of the world as a vast machine, the parts of which move in accordance with strict physical laws, without purpose or will. • In this view of the universe, known as Mechanism, science took priority over spirituality, and the surrounding physical world that we experience and observe received as much, if not more, attention than the world to come. • The aim of human life was no longer conceived as preparation for salvation in the next world, but rather as the satisfaction of people’s natural desires. Political institutions and ethical principles ceased to be regarded as reflections of divine command and came to be seen as practical devices created by humans.

  4. The peculiar features of the New Age philosophy • In the new philosophical climate, experience and reason became the sole standards of truth. • The age was enormously impressed by Isaac Newton’s discovery of universal gravitation. If humanity could so unlock the laws of the universe, God’s own laws, why could it not also discover the laws underlying all of nature and society? People came to assume that through a use of reason, an unending progress would be possible—progress in knowledge, in technical achievement, and even in moral values.

  5. The peculiar features of the New Age philosophy • The 18th-century writers believed that knowledge is not innate, but comes only from experience and observation guided by reason. Through proper education, humanity itself could be altered, its nature changed for the better. A great premium was placed on the discovery of truth through the observation of nature, rather than through the study of authoritative sources, such as Aristotle and the Bible. • They opted rather for a form of Deism, accepting the existence of God and of a hereafter, but rejecting the principles of Christian theology. Human aspirations, they believed, should not be centered on the next life, but rather on the means of improving this life. Worldly happiness was placed before religious salvation. Nothing was attacked with more intensity than the church, with all its wealth, political power, and suppression of the free exercise of reason.

  6. The principal characteristics of the New Age philosophy • Deism saw God as the cause of the great mechanism of the world, a view more in harmony with science than with traditional religion. • According to Mechanism the universe is completely explicable in terms of mechanical processes. Inasmuch as these mechanical processes are best understood in their movements, mechanism frequently involves the attempt to demonstrate that the universe is nothing more than a vast system of motions. • Empiricism, in philosophy, a doctrine that affirms that all knowledge is based on experience, and denies the possibility of spontaneous ideas or a priori thought.

  7. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)and the renewal of Philosophy

  8. Important Baconian ideas: • Reliance on the evidence of the senses and instruments (e.g. telescope, microscope); • Progress through technology; • Technological transformation of nature to make it useful to humanity: ‘relief of man’s estate’ (AL); • State Institutions of science: institutes, centralization, technocratic expertise (N.B. no democratization of knowledge!)

  9. Bacon’s Life • Son of an important official in the government of Elizabeth I and a very well-educated mother • Studied law, became a barrister and entered House of Commons, legal advisor to Elizabeth I (reigned until 1603) • Attorney General and Lord Chancellor under James I (starting 1613); forced out of office in 1621 • Bacon retired to his estate to write and study • Tried to convince Elizabeth I and James I to embrace natural philosophy as statecraft: advancement of learning advances the state

  10. Bacon’s Major Works • 1594 Essays • 1605 Advancement of Learning: blueprint for how to improve learning in the realm (natural philosophy = statecraft) • 1620 Great Instauration (or Renewal) and Novum Organon (cf. Organon of Aristotle) • New Atlantis (posthumous): blueprint for state scientific institutions and their goals

  11. Lead-up to Bacon Recall our thesis that the emergence of early-modern science and philosophy • was a long process beginning with • the revival of ancient learning in the Renaissance and • the development of practical skills from the Middle Ages onwards: navigation, architecture, optics, hydraulics, herbal medicine, alchemy (evolves into chemistry).

  12. Philosophy before Bacon: • Scholastic philosophy—logic, deduction, syllogism, medieval version of Aristotle’s physics and cosmology, overturned by Galileo and others

  13. “Many shall pass to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” The ship passes between the Pillars of Hercules, traditional symbol of limits of learning Frontispiece, Great Instauration (1620) The Ship of the New Learning:

  14. Bacon’s Attack on Aristotle: • Bacon discredits Aristotle in order to press for his own ‘total reconstruction of sciences, arts and all human knowledge, raised upon proper foundations’ (‘Proœmium’) • “Aristotle…spoils natural philosophy with his dialectic” (NO, I, lxiii). • “As the sciences in their present state are useless for the discovery of works, so logic in its present state is useless for the discovery of sciences” (emph. added; NO, I, xi).

  15. General Attack on the Ancients • … the wisdom of the Greeks was rhetorical and prone to disputation, a genus inimical to the search for truth. And so the term ‘Sophists”, which was rejected by those who wanted to be regarded as philosophers and applied with contempt to the orators…is also applicable to the whole tribe—Plato, Aristotle … and the rest” (emph. added; Bacon, NO, Bk I, LXXI).

  16. Ancient Exceptions Bacon did exempt some ancient philosophers, • who did not found schools (Plato had the Academy, Aristotle the Lyceum) and • quietly went to work investigating nature, “with less affectation” (NO I, lxxi) • Democritus (atomic theory) • Pre-Socratics: Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus

  17. Bacon’s attack on Aristotle’s method of investigation: • Aristotle did not practice a true inductive method based on experience: -he lacked “a store of things sufficiently large to formulate true axioms” (Bacon, Outline of a natural and experimental history, 224); -“…no one should be impressed because in Aristotle’s books On Animals and in his Problems and other treatises there is often discussion of experiments. He had in fact made up his mind beforehand, and did not properly consult experience…” (emph. added; NO, Bk I, LXIII).

  18. Breakdown of Bacon’s attack Aristotle’s defects show the path to follow: • True method • Examine an indefinitely large number of cases (‘store of things’) • Using Induction [WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?] • Using experiments, instruments • Employing no pre-judgement, i.e. not theory- or hypothesis-driven (extreme formulation modified in practice) • True goal: not arguments (scholastic), but arts, i.e. the art of transforming nature for the use of man

  19. The method of Bacon’s new operational natural philosophy: Induction corrects Aristotle’s error of “…premature human reasoning, which anticipates inquiry, and is abstracted from the facts rashly and sooner than is fit…” (emph. added; GI, 17). “The art which I introduce…is a kind of logic, though the difference between it and the ordinary logic is great, indeed immense” (emph. added; GI, 21).

  20. Defects of Syllogism “The syllogism consists of propositions; propositions of words, and words are the tokens and signs of notions. Now if the very notions of the mind…be improperly and overhastily abstracted from facts, vague, not sufficiently definite…the whole edifice tumbles. I therefore reject the syllogism…not only as regards principles, but also as regards middle propositions; which…are barren of works” (emph. added; GI, 21-2). “…logicians borrow the principles of each science from the science itself; secondly, they hold in reverence the first notions of the mind…” (GI, 22).

  21. Role of Sense-data: -“I perform the office of a true priest of the sense (from which all knowledge in nature must be sought…)” (GI, 24) -We may not use our senses well: “observation [can be] careless, irregular and led by chance” (GI, 26). -“…but then at the same time [the senses] supply the means of discovering their own errors” (GI, 24).

  22. Obstacles to using the Senses Idols of the tribe (all humans): we -think nature is more orderly than it actually is, and presuppose order where it is not to be found “…the universe to the eye of the human understanding is framed like a labyrinth; presenting as it does on every side so many ambiguities of way, such deceitful resemblances of objects and signs, natures so irregular in their lines, and so knotted and entangled” (GI, 13). Bacon hereby questions an assumption considered self-evident for centuries by natural philosophers and theologians.

  23. Obstacles and Idols, cont. Idols of the tribe, cont. -refuse to accept potential truth of counter-examples (e.g elliptical orbits, heliocentrism) -extrapolate from a few cases (Aristotle) - rely on abstractions -believe to be true what we want to be true -Idols of the cave (particular mentality of each person): being a grouper or splitter, liking old things or new ones, preferring form or matter; -Idols of the market-place (deficiencies of language): multiple names for things; fictitious names.

  24. Aids to the senses: “Neither the bare hand nor the unaided intellect has much power; the work is done by tools…” [cf. scholastic logic] (NO, I, ii). -Navigation: magnetic compass -Medicine: herbal, chemical (Paracelsians), anatomy -Optics, e.g. telescopes, microscopes -Alchemy (ancestor of chemistry): laboratory technique, apparatus (also has transformation of nature as its goal) -Hydraulics: use of water power, e.g. water wheels, canal construction, diversions

  25. Goal of the new philosophy—the conquest of nature: “…the end which this science…proposes…is the invention not of arguments [cf. the scholastics] but of arts…”. [which ones?] “a history [i.e. description]…of nature under constraint and vexed…when by art and the hand of man she is forced out of her natural state, and squeezed and moulded” (GI, 28; emph. added). “The End of our Foundation [Salomon’s House] is the Knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible” (emph. added; NA, 71). [what is possible?]

  26. Bacon and Christianity • Bacon’s enlargement of man’s dominion—does it usurp the role of God the Creator, or simply • restore man’s dominion over nature, lost at the Fall (Genesis 1-3)? -restoration of the “commerce between the mind of man and the nature of things…to its perfect and original condition” (Proœmium) -”confine the sense w/n the limit of things divine”, yet avoid thinking “the inquisition [investigation] of nature is…interdicted or forbidden” (GI, 16) -”true ends of knowledge”: “benefit and use of life” (a work of charity, chief Christian virtue) (GI, 16)

  27. Institutions of the new operational natural philosophy • “…in the manners and customs of the schools, universities, colleges and similar institutions…everything is found to be inimical to the progress of the sciences” (emph. added; Bacon, New Organon, xc) The solution? New academies (like Salomon’s House): -Royal Society, 1666 (London) -Royal Academy of Sciences, 1669 (Paris)

  28. F. Bacon(1561-1626 ) • Bacon's philosophy emphasized the belief that people are the servants and interpreters of nature, that truth is not derived from authority, and that knowledge is the fruit of experience. • Bacon's Novum Organum successfully influenced the acceptance of accurate observation and experimentation in science. In it he maintained that all prejudices and preconceived attitudes, which he called idols, must be abandoned. The principles laid down in the Novum Organum had an important influence on the subsequent development of empiricist thought.

  29. Bacon’s “idols” • The nature interpretation is possible, but there are a lot of obstacles on its way. • He considered consciousness illusions – “idols” to be the main obstacles. • Bacon determined 4 kinds of idols, man should get rid of.

  30. Idols of the tribe • they are the common property of the race due to common modes of thought

  31. Idols of the cave • the peculiar possession of the individual. These illusions depend on his natural characteristics, background, education, his values.

  32. Idols of the cave • they arise from too great a dependence on language (improper language use common on the marketplace ).

  33. Idols of the theatre • Those arised from tradition. • How many philosophical systems were represented in the history of philosophy, how many comedies were performed. Those comedies showed artificial mythic worlds.

  34. Bacon’s Idols

  35. Bacon’s ways of the nature interpretation • The way of the spider – the attempt to find the truth from one’s own consciusness. • The way of the ant – narrow empirism, which drags all the facts which occur on its way to the ant nest, but it is disable to generalize and conclude. • The way of the bee – brain processing of the facts which accumulate with experience.

  36. Rene Descartes(1596-1650) • He attempted to apply the rational inductive methods of science, and • “In our search for the direct road to truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain truth equal to that of the demonstration of arithmetic and geometry.” • He therefore determined to hold nothing true until he had established grounds for believing it true.

  37. Rene Descartes • The single sure fact from which his investigations began was expressed by him in the famous words Cogito, ergo sum,”I think, therefore I am.” • From this postulate that a clear consciousness of his thinking proved his own existence, he argued the existence of God. • God, according to Descartes's philosophy, created two classes of substance that make up the whole of reality. One class was thinking substances, or minds, and the other was extended substances, or bodies.


  39. Before Descartes--Dynamism The medieval view is that God is the driving, animating force within all matter. The flight of birds, illnesses, earthquakes, volcanoes--nearly all natural phenomena-- were signs of God’s pleasure or displeasure. Priests and ministers were the best source for understanding the physical world.

  40. Dynamism --Exhibit 1 Magnets were protection against witches. A magnet under a pillow would drive an adultress from her bed. A compass is “the finger of God.” William Gilbert (1544-1603) explained the earth’s rotation by saying the earth’s soul could feel the sun’s magnetic field and knew it would burn on one side and freeze on the other if it did not act; therefore, it chose to revolve upon its axis.

  41. Dynamism --Exhibit 2 Folk traditions of sympathetic magic derive from the age of Dynamism. Voodoo dolls made in the appearance of someone give power over the person (homeopathic). Putting salve on a knife blade could heal the wounds it made. Sending a handkerchief carried power from the sender (touching the hem of Jesus’ garment) (contagion).

  42. After Descartes--MechanismCartesian Dualism The spiritual part of man is his mind, his soul. It is not confined in any spatio-temporal way. Matter, including a human body, although it was created by God and put into its proper place and motion, now acts according to mechanical laws and forces. Therefore, nature, including human bodies, can be studied with science and mathematics without theological underpinnings.

  43. Cartesian DualismThe Body as Mechanism “[O]ne may very well liken the nerves of the animal machine I have described to the pipes of the machines of those [garden] fountains; its muscles and its tendons to the other different engines and springs that serve to move them; and its animal spirits, of which the heart is the source and the ventricles of the brain the reservoirs, to the water that moves these engines. Moreover, respiration and other similar functions which are usual and natural in the animal machine and which depend on the flow of the spirits are like the movements of a clock or of a mill, which the ordinary flow of water can make continuous.” (Descartes)

  44. Cartesian Dualism In Cartesian physiology, movements of bodies are purely mechanical: “All the movements of the muscles and likewise all sensations, depend on the nerves, which are like little threads or tubes coming from the brain, and containing, like the brain itself, a certain very fine air or wind , which is called the ‘animal spirits.’” (Descartes, Passions of the Soul)

  45. Descartes--Beginnings Good sense is equally distributed among most people, but . . . Many cultures believe sincerely contradictory ideas, because . . . We apparently believe much because of traditions and authority; therefore . . . We must doubt, question, and reject all we hold as true, even our own existence.

  46. Descartes--Four Rules of Logic Never to accept anything as true which I did not clearly and distinctly know to be such (a method of doubt) To divide each of the difficulties into as many parts as possible To conduct my thoughts from the simplest and easiest to the more complex To make enumerations [in writing] so complete that nothing was omitted ( the last three outline a method of inquiry)

  47. Descartes--First Principle of his Philosophy Perhaps we are simply minds in a vat controlled by some wizard who sends to our minds sensations which seem real to us; therefore, I may not even exist. COGITO, ERGO SUM I THINK, THEREFORE I EXIST. I am that which doubts. I am the thing that thinks. solution

  48. Non-cogito, ergo non-sum??

  49. Proofs for the Existence of God All things which we clearly and distinctly conceive are true. I had learned to think of something more perfect than myself. I must hold this notion from some nature which was more perfect than I. The notion of “God” must come from God.