Idea and Ontology: An Essay in Early Modern Metaphysics of Ideas (Hardback)Marc A. Hight (author)
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The prevailing view about the history of early modern philosophy, which the author dubs "the early modern tale" and wants to convince us is really a fairy tale, has it that the focus on ideas as a solution to various epistemological puzzles, first introduced by Descartes, created difficulties for the traditional ontological scheme of substance and mode. The early modern tale depicts the development of "the way of ideas" as abandoning ontology at least by the time of Berkeley. This, in turn, fostered an antimetaphysical bias as modern philosophy developed further, elevating epistemology to its current primary status in the field.
Marc Hight challenges this account by showing how, though the conception of ideas changed over time, the ontological status of ideas remained a central part of the discussion about ideas and influenced how even later thinkers like Locke, Berkeley, and Hume thought about them. By his reading of important texts in early modern philosophy, Hight aims not only to provide a more accurate history of philosophy for this period but also to resuscitate the value of metaphysics for philosophical analysis today.
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 513 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
"Marc Hight's book deals in great depth with the ontology of ideas in the early modern period, concentrating principally on Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. He shows that there is a great deal still to be learned on this traditional topic as it concerns each of these great philosophers. Hight's insightful and very well-defended interpretations will likely excite important new interest and debate on this central topic."
--George Pappas, The Ohio State University
"A wide-ranging study of the 'way of ideas' and its metaphysics, culminating in a bold reinterpretation of Berkeley."
--Kenneth Winkler, Yale University
"Hight's book is a very interesting and original inquiry into the difficulty early modern philosophers had in reconciling the central concept of 'idea' with traditional ontological categories like substance and mode. Hight's point is that the claim of some early moderns to avoid those categories has significant difficulties, since the notion of 'idea' in some ways has the properties of a mode and in other ways the properties of a substance."
--Richard Brook, Bloomsburg University
"Well written and clearly argued."
--F. Wilson, Choice
"Idea and Ontology is an important book that should change our thinking about the development of philosophy in the pre-Kantian period. With care, attention to detail, and philosophical rigor, Hight systematically demolishes the popular 'early modern tale' about an epistemological turn and shows the ineliminability of the question 'What kind of thing is an idea?' Hight's sympathetic and sophisticated interpretation of Berkeley is rightly placed center stage in his account of the progress from Descartes to Hume and gives us a new insight into his relation to his predecessors and especially to Locke. While Locke shied away from ontological questions in favor of the epistemological, Hight's Berkeley sees the importance of taking ontology as seriously as epistemology if he is to save the ordinary commitment to na ve realism from the skeptical threat posed by the theory of ideas."
--T. W. C. Stoneham, University of York
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