Great Thinkers: (VI) Descartes

Philosophy 10 (40):428 - 440 (1935)
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Abstract

There is a belief among the aborigines of Central Australia that the attributes of the divine ancestor are parcelled out among the component members of the tribe: and there are long periods in the history of ideas in which “divine philosophy” is similarly dismembered. The reason is that all great philosophical systems rest on a balanced tension of contemporary cultural elements, and as these change, and especially if they change rapidly or decisively, the unity of thought under which they have been gathered begins to disintegrate. There follows a period of piecemeal experiment, in which the material of philosophy is too rich and too disorganized to be appropriated in a single conspectus: a period in which there will be no great philosophers, and perhaps little conscious philosophizing, not because philosophic genius is lacking, but because there is no scope for it till the various special tendencies of the age have achieved a certain internal development and a definite sense of direction

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