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Philosophy in the New Century (Continuum Compact) [Paperback]

Anthony O'Hear
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2004 New Century
In this powerful re-examination of the purpose and direction of philosophy for the next century, Anthony OGÇÖHear engages with our most pressing questions: Is there knowledge outside of science? Does religion still have meaning and coherence today? What is beauty, and why do so few contemporary artists believe in it? Contemporary philosophy mostly divides into the technical approach of the Anglo-Americans, which is inaccessible to most, and the oracular obscurantism of the Continental approach, which does violence to sense and reason. OGÇÖHear argues that philosophy should work with the grain of tradition and commonsense to understand politics, religion, aesthetics, and the vast number of ethical questions that will continue to arise as the scientific and technical revolution accelerates. Giving up philosophyGÇÖs special position means giving up our best chances of thinking and acting wisely. In making a strong case for the relevance of philosophy, Anthony OGÇÖHear presents a coherent and compelling vision for recovering wisdom in our time.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL (1 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826471323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826471321
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,629,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Trenchant, clear, nontechnical, and profluent." Choice, March 2002 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

ANTHONY O'HEAR is Weston Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham and Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He is editor of the journal Philosophy andhis publications include Beyond Evolution (Clarendon Press, 1997), Plato's Children (Gordon Square, 2005) and After Progress (Bloomsbury, 1999).

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let the new century do better than the last! 20 Aug 2005
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
O'Hear believes we are ill-served by the two philosophies which have dominated the second half of the 20th century and are a threat at the beginning of the 21st: the Anglo-Saxon one descending from Bertrand Russell with its attempt to put philosophy on a scientific basis, and the continental one, culminating with Derrida, which deconstructs everything to the point that we are left, philosophically speaking, totally adrift. Both, moreover, use technical language which nobody except a specialist can understand, so that philosophy has ceased to be any kind of guide to our lives; and even if it is understood, it is counter-intuitive, since our intuition tells us that there is more to life than science and that there are values which are deeply embedded in human nature. Philosophy, O'Hear believes, should not ignore these values, but should make us think more clearly about them.
The philosopher who seems to be most congenial to O'Hear is Edmund Burke, who was so suspicious of so-called rational arrangements of society, such as were proposed by the French philosophes and later by the Utilitarians, and who so eloquently defended the wisdom embedded in tradition. O'Hear believes that many developments in our society, based on rational arguments to promote happiness, endanger these wisdoms. Medical advances like genetic engineering make possible interventions in nature that, though meant to increase human happiness, in fact undermine respect for life. The same, he thinks, is true of the sexual liberation which, so far from releasing us from "unnatural" repression by separating sex from procreation, is dissolving the bond of the natural family, with very damaging results for the whole society.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let the New Century do better than the last! 27 July 2005
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
O'Hear believes we are ill-served by the two philosophies which have dominated the second half of the 20th century and are a threat at the beginning of the 21st: the Anglo-Saxon one descending from Bertrand Russell with its attempt to put philosophy on a scientific basis, and the continental one, culminating with Derrida, which deconstructs everything to the point that we are left, philosophically speaking, totally adrift. Both, moreover, use technical language which nobody except a specialist can understand, so that philosophy has ceased to be any kind of guide to our lives; and even if it is understood, it is counter-intuitive, since our intuition tells us that there is more to life than science and that there are values which are deeply embedded in human nature. Philosophy, O'Hear believes, should not ignore these values, but should make us think more clearly about them.

The philosopher who seems to be most congenial to O'Hear is Edmund Burke, who was so suspicious of so-called rational arrangements of society, such as were proposed by the French philosophes and later by the Utilitarians, and who so eloquently defended the wisdom embedded in tradition. O'Hear believes that many developments in our society, based on rational arguments to promote happiness, endanger these wisdoms. Medical advances like genetic engineering make possible interventions in nature that, though meant to increase human happiness, in fact undermine respect for life. The same, he thinks, is true of the sexual liberation which, so far from releasing us from "unnatural" repression by separating sex from procreation, is dissolving the bond of the natural family, with very damaging results for the whole society.

"Scientism" is another target of the book - the idea that human behaviour is basically mechanical and can be explained in terms of physics and chemistry or is determined by economic forces (Marx) or by unconscious impulses (Freud). Such explanations leave out of account what we all know in our deepest selves: that, though some of our behaviour has ascertainable causes in physics and chemistry, other aspects of it are determined by choices which cannot be reduced to such causes.

When O'Hear considers Aesthetics, he takes Kant as his guide. He comments how little attention modern philosophers pay to it and how little concern many modern artists have with Beauty rather than with some "quasi-philosophical" doctrine or other. The result is that any interest that the works of such artists have (he names Damien Hirst, Rachel Whitehead, Gilbert and George, Jeff Koons, Tracy Emin) usually disappear after one experience of them, and do not lead to any enhancement of life.

Closely related to the aesthetic sense for O'Hear is the religious sense. This has little to do with various proofs for the existence of God, in all of which O'Hear sees problems. We seem to be endowed with an aesthetic instinct, a thirst for knowledge and a sense of moral obligation, all of which, O'Hear argues, go far beyond the explanations of evolutionary theory. Recognition of these feelings does not in itself require adherence to what we normally call a religious faith, although a mature faith will sustain it and make it less likely that its adherents will succumb to the aridities of scientism and materialism.

The suggestion of the whole book is that Philosophy in the New Century should abandon much of the philosophy of the previous century, dominated as it is by scientism and materialism, and go back to Kant and Burke. The book (or is it a tract?) is not particularly original; it will irritate many professional philosophers, some scientists, and people who think of themselves as progressive, let alone as avant-garde; and it will please conservatives and those who think that philosophy has strayed too far from common sense and, above all, from common experience.

Whether you agree with O'Hear or not, his arguments are easy to follow, and the book is eminently readable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Present State & Future Prospects of Philosophy 16 Oct 2001
By Roy E. Perry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"It is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified."--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (Section 5).
On the final page of his book, Anthony O'Hear, Professor of Philosopy at Bradford Univ., quotes with approval Nietzsche's early aphorism. By claiming that aesthetics is the key to wisdom, Nietzsche--and O'Hear--advance the thesis that "existence and the world" cannot be justified eternally metaphysically, logically, epistemologically, morally, politically, scientifically, or religiously.
O'Hear believes that philosophy during the 20th century, whether the cool reasoning of the Anglo-American tradition or the hyper-charged jargon and rhetoric of the European tradition, has been a dismal failure. The scientism of the former and the nihilism of the latter both end, he believes, in sterility and aridity.
The question to which O'Hear's book is primarily addressed is where, in the new century, philosophy ought to go--if it is to throw light on fundamental questions of life and how life should be lived. "If philosophy is to have a future in the twenty-first century," he writes, "it must not sacrifice rigour. But to regain relevance and significance, it must turn away from scientism and cultural nihilism, the philosophical dead-ends of the twentieth century.
O'Hear's essays deal with wisdom, the search for meaning, epistemology, the individual and other persons, nature and society, science, aesthetics, religion, death, and the "promise" (the problem and challenge) of a relevant philosophy.
The story is told of a soldier in the American Civil War who, undecided about whether to support the Union or the Confederacy, donned a blue coat and gray trousers--and was shot at by both sides!
O'Hear himself stands in such a precarious predicament. Those in the camp of "scientism" (who make the presumptuous claim that science has all the answers) will criticize him for making "theistic noises." Dogmatic theologians (who make the presumptuous claim that religion has all the answers) will criticize him for making "atheistic noises."
O'Hear points out that the spirit of his book is Aristotelian: Philosophers must seek a golden mean or balance (some would say a compromise) between rationalism and spiritualism. The rigorous pursuit of knowledge, O'Hear believes, should be wedded to the "religious impulse"--the aesthetic and moral concerns of humanity. "Something of the Aristotelian promise," he writes, "is thus redeemed. We move towards theoria, towards a non-religious form of contemplation."
PHILOSOPHY IN THE NEW CENTURY is a fascinating survey of the contemporary status of philosophy. One could have wished, however, that O'Hear had been clearer in stating his personal positions regarding controversial issues.
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