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PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF STRASBURG
FRANK THILLY, A.M., Pu.D.
FROM THE SIXTH FRENCH EDITION
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THERE is, in my opinion, no book so admirably fitted for acquainting the student with the development of thought as the able work of Professor Weber of the University of Strasburg. The author combines in his person the best elements of French and German scholarship. His knowledge of the subject is thorough and extensive, his judgment sound, his manner of expression simple, clear, and precise. His expositions remind one vividly of Kuno Fischer's fascinating presentation of philosophical teachings. They reproduce the essential thoughts of the great masters in language which is singularly free from obscurities and undefined technical terms. The different systems are not mechanically joined together like so many dominos; the history of philosophy is not conceived as an aggregate of isolated, disconnected theories, but as an evolution, as a more or less logical development, as a process from the simple to the complex. It is not a comedy of errors, a Sisyphus labor, a series of mighty efforts and corresponding failures, but a gradual advance towards truth. There are differences and contradictions, it is true, and many deviations from the ideal straight line which the historian, overlooking the entire course of development, may draw between the beginning and the end. Philosophy often follows false paths and loses itself in blind alleys. Yet this does not mean that it is a wild-goose chase.
We have long wanted a text-book of the history of philosophy that covers the whole field, and presents the subject in a manner suited to the needs of the beginner. Zeller's admirable compendium of Greek philosophy and Falckenberg's History of Modern Philosophy deal with special periods. Windelband's voluminous History of Philosophy, with its arbitrary divisions and unfortunate method of cutting up a system into parts and discussing these separately, under entirely different heads, hopelessly confuses the student. Besides, its account of philosophy since the days of Kant- a period in which our age is especially interested — is wholly inadequate. Professor Weber's work is the most serviceable manual thus far published. It begins as simply as the history of philosophy itself, and gradually introduces the reader to the complex problems of modern thought, to which it devotes more than one-half of its entire space. The portions dealing with Kant and his successors are particularly admirable. The clear and comprehensive exposition of the Hegelian philosophy will greatly assist the student in his endeavors to understand that much abused system. And the modern theory of evolution, which has revolutionized the thought of our century, and which is barely mentioned by Falekenberg and Windelband, surely deserves the attention and criticism it here receives.
This translation is made from the fifth French edition (1892), and includes a number of changes and additions which the author kindly communicated to me in manuscript. I have taken pains to render the original into clear and simple English, and to increase the usefulness of the book wherever it seemed possible and proper to do so, always keeping in mind the demands of the readers for whom the work is intended All material inserted by me is