Saturday, August 10, 2019

On the Eclecticism of Great Philosophers

The idea that a philosopher can develop a fully consistent, fully rational, and complete system of philosophy is a myth. Most great philosophers of the past had an eclectic style of philosophizing — Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Hume, Kant were quite eclectic. In his book World Hypotheses, Stephen C. Pepper offers a perspective on eclecticism in philosophy: "The literature of philosophy is, of course, full of eclectic writings. Moreover, it is probably true that all (or nearly all) the great philosophers were in various degrees eclectic. There are various reasons for this. One is undue faith in self-evidence and indomitability of fact, another is the desire to give credit to all good intuitions with the idea that these all have to be put inside one theory. But the best reason is that many of the great philosophers were not so much systematizers as seekers of fact, men who were working their way into new root metaphors and had not yet worked their way out of old ones. The eclecticism of these writers is, therefore, cognitively accidental and not deliberate, though psychologically unavoidable."~(Page 106) According to Pepper, there are two sorts of eclecticism: the static, deliberate sort; and the dynamic, accidental sort. He holds that the dynamic, accidental sort of eclecticism often leads to great literature as well as great philosophy.

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