Rebirth of Reason

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Philosophy in World Perspective
Philosophy in World Perspective
David A. Dilworth (Yale 1989)

What the publisher said of this book on the back cover is exactly right:
    In this original work of systematic philosophy, David Dilworth places the major texts of Western and Oriental philosophy and religion, both ancient and modern, into one comparative framework. His study reveals affinities between thinkers who lived centuries and continents apart and produces numerous insights by bringing great philosophical texts together into a single purview.
World-framing texts of dozens of thinkers are classified along four dimensions in this book. On each of those dimensions, there are four general positions. The number of possible positions is therefore 256.

The four dimensions are perspective, ontological focus, method, and principle.
Perspective is the authorial voice of the world-framing text: personal (e.g. Descartes, Sartre), objective (Spinoza, Newton), diaphonic (religious texts, Hegel), disciplinary (Kant, Bradley).
Ontological focus is a broad characterization of what the philosophic text regards as real: existential (Hume, James), substrative (Marx, Freud), noumenal (New Testament, Kant), essential (Descartes, Whitehead).
Method is method of articulating and constructing the important concepts in the text: agonistic or paradoxical (Galileo, Nietzsche), logistic or computational (Hobbes, Carnap), dialectical or sublational (Hegel, Bergson), synoptic or problematic (Aquinas, Schopenhauer).
Principle is the type of grounding principle that governs the development of the text’s subject matter: creative (Augustine, Darwin), elemental or simple (Hume, Wittgenstein), comprehensive (Leibniz, Einstein), reflexive (Kant, Mill).

Classification of Ayn Rand’s world-framing text (her works taken all together) was not in World. My own judgment of her philosophic presentation overall is: objective perspective, essential reality, synoptic method, and comprehensive principle. There was not a single thinker classified in Prof. Dilworth’s book that had that combination. The greatest overlap for Rand’s traits was with the traits of C. S. Peirce.

Rand and Peirce shared three of their four systematic traits. They differed in the dimension principle. I classified Rand as comprehensive. Her governing principle is Existence-is-Identity; where all existence fits together in an ordered way, from molecule to organism to man to the universe; and where no part contradicts the whole. Peirce’s governing principle is a reflective principle of self-completion, more particularly, self-completion of the intellect. His is “a principle of ‘growth of mind’ in the person, in human civilizations and particularly their rational institutions, and in the habit-forming universe at large” (W 137).

The four possible positions along a system-dimension are each broad types. Naturally, then, a shared broad type can be importantly different in the particular form it takes in a philosophy. Peirce and Rand both fall under the broad type essentialist in their ontological focus. They both see “general, continuous, or enduring traits of nature and experience in the form of graduated patterns, functions, and values” (W 29). The essentialist character of their ontological focus is quite different between Peirce and Rand. Peirce’s three fundamental categories Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness* differs greatly from Rand’s ontology of existence and consciousness, entities and their attributes, actions, and relations.

Thus far I have not mentioned any philosopher from Athens. Here is Dilworth’s classification for the most important of them:
PHILOSOPHY – Perspective, Reality, Method, Principle
Sophistic – personal, existential, agonistic, creative
Democritean – objective, substrative, logistic, elemental
Platonic – diaphonic, noumenal, dialectical, comprehensive
Aristotelian – disciplinary, essentialist, synoptic, reflexive

Notice that in terms of these system-traits, there is no overlap among these four families. Dilworth thinks of these four world-framing schools as pure modes. He characterizes all other world-frames as mixed modes in relation to these four. (No, David is not into some sort of numerology over the number four; this is just the way things gelled after decades of study.) Peirce’s mixed mode could be summarized as 3:1. He differs from Aristotle only in the dimension of perspective; Peirce’s is objective, Aristotle’s is disciplinary. That means Peirce’s perspective, or authorizing voice, is one of dispassionate observation of the world’s objects and their practical effects, whereas Aristotle’s perspective is one presupposing an ideal community of like-minded readers, often taking the form of the first person plural.

Rand’s mixed mode would sum to 2:1:1. She shares the broad trait of essentialist reality and synoptic method with Aristotle (and with Peirce). She shares an objective type of perspective with Democritus and a comprehensive type of principle with Plato. Rand shares none of the four system-traits with the Sophists (and none with Nietzsche).

You know what? This is an amazing book.
Added by Stephen Boydstun
on 7/22, 9:31am

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