Email this review


This is the third and presumably final volume in a mammoth survey of Western philosophy from antiquity to the present. The volume here actually contains four separate books: Thomas Langan's German Philosophy, Etienne Gilson's French and Italian Philosophy, and Armand Maurer's double header, English and American Philosophy. The starting point for all is the various speculative developments after Descartes and Kant. The undertaking raises some questions. Who, for instance, is the intended ideal reader? To this reviewer's mind, it is only the graduate student or professional scholar. In covering so much ground, the authors have compressed a number of thorny problems, put in capsulated form the concerns of conflicting schools, and frequently left unexplained technical jargon. Such intellectual high-mindedness is admirable, but hardly beneficial to the interested layman or undergraduate. Secondly, with the blessed exception of Maurer, the style of writing displayed by Gilson and (especially) Langan, is often clotted, graceless, and interminably cross-referenced. Thirdly, the business of proportion. Why so much space devoted to Hartmann, for example, and so little to Nietzsche? Why does one get a largesse of Maine de Biran, and skimpy studies of Sartre or Kierkegaard? Of course, the editorial policy appears to be purposely weighted towards the lesser lights--that is to say, the authors apparently wish to do justice to neglected thinkers, and this in itself is salutary. However, if a volume is meant to be a representative discussion, celebrities like Sartre etc. should be adequately treated. These aside, congratulations are in order, for the offering is probably the most ambitious and extensive outline of so-called recent philosophical movements to date, remarkably valuable in its presentation of phenomenology, linguistic analysis, and English empiricism, and extremely useful in its exploration of the Risorgimento figures and the Thomist revival. Naturally, the most elaborate commentary is reserved for Hegelianism.

Publisher: Random House