MODERN EUROPEAN THOUGHT: Continuity and Change in Ideas, 1600-1950 by Franklin L. Baumer

MODERN EUROPEAN THOUGHT: Continuity and Change in Ideas, 1600-1950

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Franklin Baumer rides the High Road of intellectual history, constructed of the Great Thoughts of Great Thinkers on The Great Issues. For Baumer, these issues are five: God, Nature, Man, Society, and History. Drawing on his long acquaintance with the Western intellectual tradition (Baumer's selection of source readings, Main Currents of Western Thought, is in its third edition), Baumer here presents an interpretation of that tradition's last 350 years. Taking as his theme the passage in thought from Being to Becoming, he examines the careers of his five leading ideas through each of his four centuries. He shows 17th-century thinkers, imbued with the adoration of Being, viewing Man, Nature, etc., as the fruits of order, stability, and the like, despite the appearance of change. Hence arose the hegemony of Rationalism and Classicism, which Baumer also traces through the Enlightenment, while remarking the mounting signs that Becoming (instability, organicism, development, etc.) had started pressing itself upon alert minds. The 19th century is then dubbed ""The Century of Becoming,"" since its thinkers banished fixity altogether. Here Baumer becomes more subtle and substantive because he attends to the varieties of thought and phases of culture, following their emergence from the Enlightenment, their exploration of Becoming, and final lapse into subjectivity. He then sees the 20th century submitting to the ""Triumph of Becoming"" and the concomitant ""Decline of the West,"" both of which he wishes to throttle by restoring the belief in Being. Baumer's familiar anti-modern bias and his commonplace thesis cannot do justice to the complexity of Western intellectual history. Nevertheless his book does follow some indisputable continuities and changes through the maze of the Western tradition.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Macmillan