By Frederick Copleston

Conceived initially as a major presentation of the improvement of philosophy for Catholic seminary scholars, Frederick Copleston's nine-volume A historical past Of Philosophy has journeyed a long way past the modest goal of its writer to common acclaim because the most sensible heritage of philosophy in English.

Copleston, an Oxford Jesuit of giant erudition who as soon as tangled with A. J. Ayer in a fabled debate concerning the life of God and the potential of metaphysics, knew that seminary scholars have been fed a woefully insufficient diet of theses and proofs, and that their familiarity with such a lot of history's nice thinkers used to be reduced to simplistic caricatures. Copleston set out to redress the inaccurate by means of writing an entire background of Western philosophy, one crackling with incident and intellectual pleasure -- and one who provides full place to every philosopher, providing his idea in a beautifully rounded demeanour and displaying his links to those that went earlier than and to those that came after him.

The results of Copleston's prodigious labors is a historical past of philosophy that's not going ever to be exceeded. Thought journal summed up the final contract between students and scholars alike whilst it reviewed Copleston's A historical past of Philosophy as "broad-minded and aim, complete and scholarly, unified and good proportioned... we won't suggest [it] too highly."

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Extra info for A History of Philosophy [Vol VII] : modern philosophy : from the post-Kantian idealists to Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche

Example text

Oile main reason why Fichte makes this distinction between the theory of rights and political theory on the one hand and ethics on the other is that he looks on ethics as concerned with interior morality, with conscience and the formal principle of morality. 59 POST-KANTIAN IDEALIST SYSTEMS FICHTE (2) whereas the theory of rights and of political society is concerned with the external relations between human beings. Further, if the comment is made that the doctrine of rights can be regarded as applied ethics, in the sense that it is deducible as an application of the moral law, Fichte refuses to admit the truth of this contention.

2 By this somewhat tortuous route Fichte deduces the fundamental principle of morality, 'the necessary idea of the intelligence that it ought to determine its freedom purely and without exception in accordance with the concept of independence [Selbstdndigkeit)' ,I The free being ought to bring its freedom under a law, namely the law of complete self-determination or absolute independence (absence of determination through any external object). And this law should admit of no exception because it expresses the very nature of the free being.

What is meant by man's moral nature? Fichte tells us that there is in man an impulsion to perform certain actions simply for the sake of performing them, without regard to external purposes or ends, and to leave undone other actions simply for the sake of leaving them undone, again without regard to external purposes or ends. And the nature of man in so far as this impulsion necessarily manifests itself within him is his 'moral or ethical nature'. 1 To understand the grounds of this moral nature is the task of ethics.

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