Periodicity of Philosophical Revolutions

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Robert Hanna et al. :

"Since the 17th century, philosophical revolutions have happened roughly every one hundred years, and each revolution takes roughly twenty years to unfold:

(i) the late 17th and early 18th century anti-Scholastic Rationalist revolution—Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, but also including Newtonian scientific mechanism, followed by an Empiricist reaction,

(ii) the late 18th and early 19th century anti-Rationalist, anti-Empiricist Kantian Copernican Revolution and absolute idealism—Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, followed by an anti-Hegelian reaction, including Kierkegaard and neo-Kantianism, then by Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and phenomenology (especially existential phenomenology) more generally,

(iii) the late 19th and early 20th century anti-idealist Analytic philosophy revolution—Frege, Russell, Moore, and early Wittgenstein, followed by Vienna Circle logical empiricism/positivism, then by Quinean and Sellarsian scientific naturalism, alongside the later Wittgenstein’s work and ordinary language philosophy, then by Strawsonian conceptual analysis, direct reference theory and scientific essentialism, and currently, Analytic metaphysics.

Now it has been almost exactly one hundred years since the neo-Kantian and British neo-Hegelian traditions went down into the ash-heap of history and were superseded by classical Analytic philosophy, in the late 1920s and 30s. So if the historical pattern persists, then we are actually at the beginning of another philosophical revolution, over the next forty years, and fully into the heart and soul of the 21st century, although it may be difficult to see its precise shape because we do not have the benefit of historical hindsight or an adequate emotional and reflective distance from actual historical processes, and because we are naturally distracted by our own everyday affairs, domestic and international politics, and global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. But in any case, we can be certain that when post-classical Analytic philosophy goes down into the ash-heap of history, then its dialectical Other and social-institutional slave, Continental philosophy, will disappear along with it.

Therefore, if we are correct, then there is still a serious alternative to Eliot’s pathetic whimper at The End of the World: namely, New Wave Organicism in philosophy, the applied and fine arts, the formal and natural sciences, the human sciences, the social sciences and society, and politics, encompassing what Gare and others have called “ecological civilization,” drawing on the radical enlightenment, Kantian philosophy, and on the ill-fated first wave of organicism."


More information

  • Gare, Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization; and Clayton and Schwartz, What is Ecological Civilization? Crisis, Hope, and the Future of the Planet.