The Panorama of Philosophy: Philosophy, Truth and Revealed Truth

Between the rise of Christianity and the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century, philosophy remained the handmaiden of theology. We trace the re-emergence of philosophy and the emancipation of science, down to the great political revolutions that changed Western Civilisation. No prior knowledge of Part I and Part II required.


  • Herbert Butterfield: Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800
  • R. G. Collingwood: The Idea of Nature
  • Coplestone: A History of Philosophy (Medieval Philosophy)
  • Toby Huff: The Rise of Early Modern Science
  • Arthur Koestler: The Sleepwalkers (Biographies of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo)
  • Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • J. Lawrenz: Leibniz – The Nature of Reality and the Reality of Nature (in WEA library)
  • Alfred North Whitehead: Science and the Modern World


  • THE HIJACKING OF PHILOSOPHY. As Christianity was a “religion of the book”, the church fathers absorbed Greek philosophy into their theological councils. The great apologist for the Christian religion, Augustinus, set the tone. The fundamental theological issue to be resolved was the question “What is a Person?” It occupied the church fathers for well over a century and impregnated western civilisation with a wholly new philosophical concept.
  • SCHOLASTICISM. Theology reached its internal peak in the 11th century. Then Aristotle fell into our lap, a gift of the Arabs. Thomas Aquinas succeeded so well with Christianising the philosopher, that by the next century, he had become an authority second only to the Bible. Unsuspectingly, this ‘Greek Gift’ marked the beginning of a new kind of struggle for the soul of man.
  • THE COPERNICAN TURN. After the Black Death, men dared again, for the first time in 1000 years, to look at the world in wonder. The backdrop to the Copernican Revolution was the schism of the Church, the voyages of discovery and the threat of Muslim conquest. Copernicanism and the Renaissance infused new energy into philosophy by changing our perspectives and raising new questions never asked before.
  • REVOLUTIONS: MACHIAVELLI, GUTENBERG AND LUTHER. Machiavelli is unique in history in virtue of his fear¬less insistence on analysing political power exactly as it is. Luther was an insignificant German monk, who challenged the world’s greatest power and almost brought it to its knees. Gutenberg was a printer whose invention revolutionised learning and communications. These three revolutions changed the intellectual and political face of civilisation forever.
  • SCIENCE ASCENDANT: GALILEO, KEPLER AND BACON. A new authority, science, flexed its muscles. Galileo and Kepler demonstrated the incompatibility of ancient traditions with the observable facts of reality. Bacon said: “Knowledge is Power” and planted the idea of an universal education into the minds of growing literate populations.
  • DESCARTES AND THE INVENTION OF THE MIND. In 1633 Descartes was confronted with the dilemma that the methods of scientific proof were inadequate. The Galileo trial had shown that evidence does not compellingly lead to proof. After years of meditation he devised a wholly new metaphysical doctrine, centred on the “Thinking I”, which empowered the mind with appropriate methodologies.
  • THE GROWTH OF SECULARISM AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY. In the wake of Descartes, several philosophers re-thought the political and social landscape of western civilisation. Scientific principles and the new metaphysics changed the terms of discourse for Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke and others as democracy was re-awakened from its deep slumbers since the end of the ancient world.
  • LEIBNIZ AND NEWTON: SYNTHESISING A NEW WORLD VIEW. Both men were great synthesisers, as well as inventive geniuses. Newton brought all preceding science under the one fold of his universal gravitational theory. Leibniz hoped to finally solve the fundamental metaphysical problems of philosophy. He was also deeply involved in technology and pointed the way to the future with many innovative ideas.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the development of early modern philosophy.
  2. Evaluate the progress and changes involving philosophy in early western civilisation.
$232 Limited / $209

<p>Between the rise of Christianity and the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century, philosophy remained the handmaiden of theology. We trace the re-emergence of philosophy and the emancipation of

17 Oct

Interested in this course but can't attend? Please the waiting list.