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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good resource
It is written in a good style and has very clear language which makes it easy to understand. A nice size book with a very readable font. :)
Published 16 months ago by Charlotte

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Rise of Modern Philosophy - The Fall of Philosophy
"The Rise of Modern Philosophy is The Fall of Philosophy"

It is difficult to decide which star rating to give to a book which deals with the history of philosophy or religion, because one can distinguish at least three factors which affect the rating: first, the ACCURACY of the ACCOUNT given by the book's author (call him A) of the views of those people whom...
Published 13 months ago by trini


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good resource, 6 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Rise of Modern Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 3: New History of Western Philosophy v. 3 (Paperback)
It is written in a good style and has very clear language which makes it easy to understand. A nice size book with a very readable font. :)
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Rise of Modern Philosophy - The Fall of Philosophy, 19 May 2013
By 
trini "HWS" (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Rise of Modern Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 3: New History of Western Philosophy v. 3 (Paperback)
"The Rise of Modern Philosophy is The Fall of Philosophy"

It is difficult to decide which star rating to give to a book which deals with the history of philosophy or religion, because one can distinguish at least three factors which affect the rating: first, the ACCURACY of the ACCOUNT given by the book's author (call him A) of the views of those people whom he is discussing; secondly, the ASSESSMENT by A of the philosophical or theological MERIT of the VIEWS of those whom he is discussing (call them B,C, D, etc.); and thirdly, A's awareness of the EFFECT of the ideas of B, C, D, etc., on the historical events of their day. For example, if A is writing a history of religion in the sixteenth century, he must include not only an account of the theological views of the main actors, but also indicate what he (A) thinks of these views and of the events which they caused or influenced.

Having lived with Kenny's book for several weeks, reading it twice and referring back to it constantly, I think that its exposition of the views of the philosophers whom it discusses (B,C, D, etc.) is a very valuable overview of the period (roughly 1515 to 1841), and would merit a five-star rating. But I am less favourably impressed by Kenny's overall assessment of the merit of these philosophers, and of their
impact on the world around them, and the way they have helped to fashion the world in which we now live. I therefore give Kenny's book a three-star rating overall.

I must continue to talk in seeming generalities. I consider Kenny's book to be a must-read, but with many caveats. It must be read with extreme scepticism, with the ever-present possibility that whichever illustrious philosopher is under discussion may be talking mostly rubbish. To quote Kenny (p. 88): "The whole of recent philosophy, Reid [Thomas Reid, 1710-1796] maintains, shows how even the most intelligent people can go wrong if they start from a false first principle". I think that Reid deserves more attention.

This brings me to my key criticism of the philosophers under discussion - and of Kenny's analysis of their views. Kenny correctly picks out the 'false first principle' which largely destroys the value of the work of almost every one of the philosophers reviewed in his book. He points this out quite clearly in his Introduction. He says: "To someone approaching the early modern period of philosophy from an ancient and medieval background, the most striking feature of the age is the absence of Aristotle from the philosophic scene" (p. xii). But where Kenny fails, is that he does not recognize that this abandonment of Aristotle is a disaster. It is left to Edward Feser to make this judgment. In his most excellent book "The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism" (St Augustine's Press, 2010), in which he demolishes not only Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens, but also Descartes, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, et al., Feser says: "Abandoning Aristotelianism , as the founders of modern philosophy did, was the single greatest mistake ever made in the entire history of Western thought" (p. 51).

I must however draw attention to the curious fact that in spite of his comment about Aristotle's absence from the work of the 'modern' philosophers whom he is discussing, and despite not having an extended treatment of Aristotle in his book here, and despite the fact that his Index gives only 12 references to Aristotle, yet Kenny, who is an expert on the works of Aristotle, nevertheless does refer to him very many times more in his book here - on pages xii, 42, 71, 97, 112, 128, 158, 176, 181, 185, 186, 187, 188, 194, 197, 204, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 219, 232, 234, 248, 249, 265, 268, 270, 272, 317, 329. In other words, Aristotle's philosophy was clearly the one which the `new philosophers' explicitly or unconsciously were attempting to overthrow. Kenny should have explicitly repeated the verdict, that this was a disaster.

And I can re-word my blanket verdict on the philosophers in Kenny's book by saying that they almost to a man abandoned the idea that there was such a thing as human nature, and a real world out there, and such things as Aristotle's four`causes'. Instead, they began to theorize about the imaginary concepts of their minds, not about the real world of men and beasts and the inanimate things about them - and God. They rejected the idea that there is some relationship and interaction between the immaterial mind (not just the physical brain) and the world of physical objects; they rejected the concept of `adaequatio mentis et rei', that the mind really knows the real world out there; that there really is a real world out there; that there is such a thing as cause and effect, and so on - all of these commonsense ideas were jettisoned. The discussion of the big questions: creation, God, who are we, what is morality, what is the function of society, why is there something rather than nothing - all of this came to be discussed artificially, out of touch with commonsense reality.

Constantly, when reading Kenny's philosophers, one must sceptically ask, "Would the common man be able to live by these ideas? Can the philosophers themselves live by the fruits of their thoughts?" See my review of Simon Blackburn's short book, `Truth - A Guide for the Perplexed' (Penguin, 2006), to which I have given the title: "The sceptic cannot live by his philosophical beliefs". And there is the comment by Antony Flew, the self-styled one-time greatest atheist in the world (now deceased, but converted to some form of deism before his death), in his book, "There is a God" (2007): "I have long wanted to make major corrections to my book [a 1961 commentary on Hume's Philosophy of Belief] in the light of my new-found awareness that Hume was utterly wrong to maintain that we have no experience, and hence no genuine ideas, of making things happen and of preventing things from happening, of physical necessity and of physical impossibility". Flew concludes this little comment with the delightful sentence: "Hume's scepticism about cause and effect and his agnosticism about the external world are of course jettisoned the moment he leaves his study" (pp. 57,58). Hume is also a recurring target for Feser in `The Last Superstition'. Even Kenny quotes Dr Johnson's demolition of Berkeley's denial of the reality of external things: " ... Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, `I refute it THUS' " (Kenny, p. 79).

On every page of Kenny's book there is something worth commenting on, either said by the philosopher being commented on, or by Kenny, or as a reaction (by someone like myself) who sees elementary commonsense being abandoned in favour of some high-falutin' but incomprehensible elaboration of out-of-thin-air considerations by some eminent name. It is impossible to go in detail into all of these.

Kenny usually has an excellent half-page summarizing each of his chapters, as well as introducing them. I leave it to the reader to assess each of these for himself or herself.

One final comment. What have the philosophers, herein discussed, contributed to the understanding of the world we live in? What have they contributed to the understanding of the human condition - God, humankind, immortality, rationality and the soul? It has been downhill all the way. Can one live by the fundamental beliefs of Descartes, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant or Hegel?

"Securus judicat orbis terrarum - the firm commonsense verdict of the universal 'common man' condemns the emptiness - and the frequent glaring wrongness - of the professional philosopher".

I have already reviewed, on amazon, Volume Four of Kenny's work, which deals with Western philosophers from after Hegel, to the present day. My review there is entitled, `Bene cucurristis sed extra viam', which I interpret there as meaning, 'You modern philosophers of the later-nineteenth and twentieth centuries have run well and had a lot of fun, but you haven't been running in the proper stadium at all', because these philosophers have, so often, simply lost sight of what philosophy is all about. They have reduced it to mere linguistic word-games. Please see my whole review there.
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