New PDF release: A History of Philosophy [Vol IV]

By Frederick Charles Copleston

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But the Renaissance ushered in the beginning of a new scientific and moral culture to the development of which we can set no limits. Men's minds can, however, be limited by prejudice and narrow ideas, such as those fostered by religious dogma. Hence follows the importance of education, especially of scientific education. In Germany, Lessing too proposed an optimistic theory of INTRODUCTION 53 historical progress. In his work Die ErzJehung des M enschmgeschlects (1780) he depicted history as the progressive education of the human race.

And this prompts us to ask whether metaphysical knowledge is, indeed, possible. Pure empiricism, however, is unable to justify a branch of study, namely, physical science, which certainly does increase our knowledge of the world. And this prompts us to ask what is missing in pure empiricism and how the universal, necessary and informative judgments of science are possible. How can we justify the assurance with which we make these judgments? The problem or problems can be expressed in this way. On the one hand Kant saw that the metaphysicians!

What he is suggesting is that man, the experiencing and knowing subject, is so constituted that he necessarily (because he is what he is) synthesizes the ultimately given data or impressions in certain ways. In other words, the subject, man, is not simply the passive reci~ient of impressions: he actively (and unconsciously) syntheslzes the raw data, so to speak, imposing on them the a priori 57 ~ This applies to the p,re-Kantian continental rationalists. not to a mediaeval philosopher such as Aqumas.

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