History of Modern Philosophy

Modern Philosophy has its origins in West of Europe sometime in the 17th century.  It is not a specific school and should never be confused with modernism and this helps it differentiate from earlier schools of philosophy.  Two major groups, rationalists and empiricists, are the major groups that tussle on the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and epistemology.  The rationalists argue that every piece of knowledge must be initiated from specific innate ideas of the mind.  Descartes, Gottfried, Leibniz, Nicolas, Malebranche, and Baruch Spinoza are considered the major rationalists from France and Germany.  Most of the rationalists are from France and Germany.  The empiricists, on the other hand, believe that knowledge has its origin in sensory experiences.  George Berkeley, David Hume, and John Locke are the most renowned empiricists.  It must be noted that ethics as well as political philosophy are not under these categories, despite the fact that most of these philosophers commented and worked on ethics in their own classical styles.

Towards the end of 18th century, Immanuel Kant proposed a radically different philosophical system that claimed to unify rationalism and empiricism.  Whether the fact he was wrong or right remains on one side, he did not entirely succeed in his endeavor.  Kant laid a foundation for voluminous work in philosophy in Germany in the early periods of 19th century starting with German Idealism.  The core of this idealism believed that the world and the mind must be understood in equal proportions in same categories.  German idealism finally seems to have ended with the work of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who strongly believed that the rational is real and the real is rational.  Hegel’s work was continued in numerous directions by his critics as well as followers.  For instance, Karl Marx carried on philosophy of History by Hegel and empirical ethics of Britain changing Hegel’s ideas into intensely materialist form eventually laying the foundation for science of society.  Soren Kierkegaard believed that there is no systematic philosophy and to guide life and meaning.   Kierkegaard did not believe that life is a mystery to be solved but that life is meant to be lived.  Schopenhauer advanced idealism to the conclusion that this world is a futile interplay of images and desires and promoted pessimism and atheism. This was further promoted and transformed by Nietzsche who went on to proclaim that the God is dead and rejected all systematic philosophies.  It is believed that Nietzsche is not promoting pessimism but proclaiming a new kind of freedom.