How did Modern Philosophy Come About?
Philosophy is an ever-changing field of the exploration of the human mind into understanding the world and the ultimate meaning of things around the human person, owing to the fact that humans and their civilizations change in the passing of time.
- Ancient times saw philosophers focus on the cosmos, especially the Greeks who believed that man is a microcosm in the macrocosm (the cosmos). In this sense, man is made up of Matter (Body) and Form (Soul) just as the Universe has these two main parts.1
- Plato defined the soul as something that is immortal and separating from the body when the human dies, in contrast of the ancient Greek religious belief that the psyche (Greek word for soul) is a spirit without any consciousness once the body is dead.2
Ancient Philosophy - Western
- Ancient philosophy fell out of favor when Christianity became the State religion of the Roman Empire.
- What happened during the Transition from Ancient to Medieval Period were dark and bloody events that even showed the ironic cruelty of the Christians – in defense of their faith, against pagans – during that time.3 Hypatia, head of the Platonist school at Alexandria and the last philosopher of the Ancient times, was murdered by Christians who felt threatened by her scholarship, learning, and depth of scientific knowledge.4
- Despite its bloody beginnings, Medieval Philosophy flourished in the Theocentric Approach, replacing the Cosmocentric Approach of Ancient Philosophy.
- Medieval philosophers, starting from St. Augustine of Hippo up to St. Thomas Aquinas, focused on philosophizing about the existence of God.
- Man is understood as from the point of God, as a creature of God, made in his image and likeness.5
- Christian, Jewish, and Islamic philosophers all argued on how and why God is the Highest among all, and a Being of Perfection, even citing biblical accounts in doing so.
- Thomas Aquinas presented a synthesis of medieval philosophy which is evidenced by his book, Summa Theologica wherein the first part, Aquinas gives five proofs for God's existence. He argues for the actuality and incorporeality of God as the unmoved mover and describes how God moves through His thinking and willing.6
St. Augustine of Hippo
- The world was spurned by another change of perspective in human thinking that began around 1400 in Italy.
- Europe experienced a dramatic intellectual movement called the Renaissance, which emphasized the resurgence of science and culture through classical influences.7
- With the onslaught of science and the significant growing way of thinking that debunks religious beliefs over scientific basis, philosophers then turned to question, “Do we really need God in our lives and why?”
- The Age of Reason of the 17th Century and the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th Century, along with the advances in science, the growth of religious tolerance and the rise of liberalism which went with them, brought about modern philosophy.
- During this period, the field of philosophy is divided between two opposing doctrines, Rationalism (the belief that all knowledge arises from intellectual and deductive reason, rather than from the senses) and Empiricism (the belief that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience).
- French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes sparked the revolution in philosophy thought when he pioneered Rationalism, especially with his methodological skepticism.8
- In this sense, no longer was Philosophy considered simply “the Handmaid of Theology”, as St. Thomas Aquinas and all other medieval philosophers believed, but modern philosophers live that the discipline is “Handmaiden of Science."9
The Birth of Modern Philosophy
1 Cohen, Mark. "Plato's Cosmology: The Timaeus." https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/timaeus.htm.
2 Gods and Goddesses. USA: A & E Home Video :, 2006. Film.
3 Agora. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Performed by Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac. Lions Gate Films, 2010. Film.
4 O'Connor, J.J., and E.F. Robertson. "Hypatia of Alexandria." Biographies. Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Hypatia.html.
5 "The Concept of "Image of God" in Christianity and Islam." Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www.academia.edu/2314752/The_Concept_of_Image_of_God_in_Christianity_and_Islam.
6 "Thomas Aquinas (1225—1274)." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www.iep.utm.edu/aquinas/.
7 Fieser, James. "Philosophy 110 Syllabus." 2008. Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/class/110/110-syl.htm.
8 Mastin, Luke. "A Quick History of Philosophy." The Basics of Philosophy. 2008. Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www.philosophybasics.com/general_quick_history.html.
9 Ross, Kelley. "The Beginning of Modern Science." Beginning of Modern Science & Modern Philosophy. May 1, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015. http://www.friesian.com/hist-2.htm.