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From later antiquity down to the close of the eighteenth century, most philosophers and men of science and, indeed, most educated men, accepted without question a traditional view of the plan and structure of the world.
In this volume, which embodies the William James lectures for 1933, Arthur O. Lovejoy points out the three principles―plenitude, continuity, and graduation―which were combined in this conception; analyzes their origins in the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists; traces the most important of their diverse samifications in subsequent religious thought, in metaphysics, in ethics and aesthetics, and in astronomical and biological theories; and copiously illustrates the influence of the conception as a whole, and of the ideas out of which it was compounded, upon the imagination and feelings as expressed in literature.
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'Men are galvanized by ideas and act as vehicles for them ...Such a ruling idea is that of the great chain of being. Prof. Lovejoy's study records the birth, the growth, the vicissitudes, transformations, and finally the senility, and perhaps the death of this idea. The study is as fascinating as that of the rise and decay of an empire, and, in fact, it is the study of the empire of an idea over human minds throughout many centuries...Prof. Lovejoy's approach is fresh and different.' Modern Language NotesAbout the Author:
Arthur O. Lovejoy taught philosophy for nearly forty years at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of numerous works, including Essays in the History of Ideas and Revolt against Dualism.
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