Monday, March 10, 2008

Cerbone, David R. "Review of Anthony Kenny's PHILOSOPHY IN THE MODERN WORLD." NDPR March 7, 2008.

Kenny, Anthony. Philosophy in the Modern World. Vol. 4 of A New History of Western Philosophy. Oxford: OUP, 2007. In considering the scope of Kenny's exposition, it is important to note that "modern" modifies "world" rather than "philosophy." The book thus does not cover what is typically covered in a college course on modern philosophy, which usually ranges from Descartes to Kant. Consideration of that era in philosophy was included in the third volume (The Rise of Modern Philosophy). As Kenny notes at the outset, the third volume ended with the death of Hegel, and the present volume continues onward from there to close to the end of the 20th century. In the Introduction, Kenny recounts his struggles with determining a suitable cut-off point for inclusion in the book: Can the philosopher in question still be living? Must he or she be younger than Kenny, who reports being seventy-five? Rather than use demise or his own age as a criterion, Kenny finally settled on a thirty-year rule, thereby excluding from consideration anything written after 1975. Drawing the line there still leaves a considerable swath of philosophy to consider and one of the remarkable achievements of this book is just how much it does manage to cover, and with considerable clarity and rigor (though there are some lamentable lacunae, as I'll suggest below). It is rare indeed that a work in philosophy can move so gracefully from the ethics of Schopenhauer to the logic of Peirce to Croce's aesthetics, but Kenny does just that and a great deal more. That this is the fourth volume of a comprehensive history of Western philosophy makes Kenny's achievements in this particular book even more astonishing. The book is eminently readable, though not easy: as Kenny notes, "philosophy has no shallow end" (p. xv). Still for those wishing to get their feet wet or to fill in some of the gaps in their understanding of the philosophy of this era, this can be an excellent book. However, as I'll try to spell out below, there are some unfortunate gaps in Kenny's own exposition, especially for readers whose interests tend toward 20th century continental philosophy: this audience will have to look elsewhere for filling in those gaps (or, to vary the image, reading this book will leave their feet rather too dry). . . . Read the rest here:

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