By Frederick Copleston
Conceived initially as a significant presentation of the improvement of philosophy for Catholic seminary scholars, Frederick Copleston's nine-volume A background Of Philosophy has journeyed a long way past the modest objective of its writer to common acclaimas the simplest heritage of philosophy in English.
Copleston, an Oxford Jesuit of sizeable erudition who as soon as tangled with A.J. Ayer in a fabled debate concerning the life of God and the potential for metaphysics, knew that seminary scholars have been fed a woefully insufficient vitamin of theses and proofs, and that their familiarity with so much of history's nice thinkers used to be lowered to simplistic caricatures. Copleston got down to redress the inaccurate by means of writing a whole historical past of Western philosophy, one crackling with incident and highbrow pleasure - and person who offers complete position to every philosopher, offering his idea in a superbly rounded demeanour and displaying his hyperlinks to those that got here after him.
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Extra resources for A History of Philosophy, Volume 4: Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Leibniz
With the utilitarians, however, another point of view comes to the fore. In the writings of Helvetius, for instance, the greatest happiness of the greatest number replaces as the standard of value Locke's natural rights. But Helvetius does not appear to have fully understood that this substitution implied the rejection of the theory of natural rights. For if utility is the standard, rights are themselves justified only b y their utility. In England, however, this was seen by Hume. Rights are founded on convention, on general rules which experience has shown to be useful, not on selfevident principles or on eternal truths.
All our ideas are derived from impressions, the elementary data of experience. And in order to determine the objective reference of any complex idea, we have to ask, from what impressions is it derived. Now, there is no impression of a spiritual substance. If I look into myself, I perceive only a series of psychic events such as desires, feelings, thoughts. Nowhere do I perceive an underlying, permanent substance or soul. That we have some idea of a spiritual substance can be explained by reference to the working of mental association; but we have no ground for asserting that such a substance exists.
B u t scepticism was not confined to the elegant, literary version represented by Montaigne or to the fideism of Charron. It was represented also by a group of free-thinkers who had little difficulty in showing the inconsistencies in Charron's combination of 1 pp. 228-30. • Vol. HI, p. 228. 2 0 A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY—IV scepticism with fideism. This combination had existed already in the fourteenth century; and some religiously-minded people are undoubtedly attracted by it. B u t it is scarcely a satisfactory position from the rational point of view.