Peter GILMOUR : Philosophers of the Enlightenment

Publication Information : Book Title : Philosophers of the Enlightenment. Contributors : Peter Gilmour – editor. Publisher : Edinburgh University Press. Place of Publication : Edinburgh. Publication Year : 1989.

Introduction by Peter Gilmour

Although the nine philosophers in this volume can be described as Enlightenment philosophers (or, at least, as philosophers who touch on the Enlightenment in some way), it would be a mistake to think that therefore they have a project, or set of ideas, in common. There are similarities, of course, resemblances — their inclusion together in the volume would otherwise be arbitrary -but there are also differences, divergences. The first to be considered is Leibniz who, with his belief that the truth is revealed to pure reason rather than to the senses, cannot be placed at the centre of the Enlightenment. Nor can the last, Fourier, with his concern to develop a science of man that explains the spirit and the imagination. Within the thought of both, however, there are elements which link them importantly to the Enlightenment. Even within that group usually held to be essentially of the Enlightenment, the British Empiricists, there are important differences. Students new to the philosophers of this age, therefore, would do well to be alert to this diversity. Here as elsewhere the search for common ideas, common beliefs, is limiting and misleading.

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