Four Ages of Understanding: The first Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

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This book redraws the intellectual map and sets the agenda in philosophy for the next fifty or so years. By making the theory of signs the dominant theme in "Four Ages of Understanding", John Deely has produced a history of philosophy that is innovative, original, and complete. The first full-scale demonstration of the centrality of the theory of signs to the history of philosophy, "Four Ages of Understanding" provides a new vantage point from which to review and reinterpret the development of intellectual ...

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Overview

This book redraws the intellectual map and sets the agenda in philosophy for the next fifty or so years. By making the theory of signs the dominant theme in "Four Ages of Understanding", John Deely has produced a history of philosophy that is innovative, original, and complete. The first full-scale demonstration of the centrality of the theory of signs to the history of philosophy, "Four Ages of Understanding" provides a new vantage point from which to review and reinterpret the development of intellectual culture at the threshold of "globalization".

Deely examines the whole movement of past developments in the history of philosophy in relation to the emergence of contemporary semiotics as the defining moment of Postmodernism. Beginning traditionally with the Pre-Socratic thinkers of early Greece, Deely gives an account of the development of the notion of signs and of the general philosophical problems and themes which give that notion a context through four ages: Ancient philosophy, covering initial Greek thought; the Latin age, philosophy in European civilization from Augustine in the 4th century to Poinsot in the 17th; the Modern period, beginning with Descartes and Locke; and the Postmodern period, beginning with Charles Sanders Peirce and continuing to the present. Reading the complete history of philosophy in light of the theory of the sign allows Deely to address the work of thinkers never before included in a general history, and in particular to overcome the gap between Ockham and Descartes which has characterized the standard treatments heretofore. One of the essential features of the book is the way in which it shows how the theme of signs opens a perspective for seeing the Latin Age from its beginning with Augustine to the work of Poinsot as an indigenous development and organic unity under which all the standard themes of ontology and epistemology find a new resolution and place.

A magisterial general history of philosophy, Deely's book provides both a strong background to semiotics and a theoretical unity between philosophy's history and its immediate future. With "Four Ages of Understanding" Deely sets a new agenda for philosophy as a discipline entering the 21st century.

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Editorial Reviews

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Deely (philosophy, Loras College) provides a general history of philosophy together with background to the field of semiotics. Moving through four ages (Greek thought, the Latin age, the modern period beginning with Galileo, Descartes and Locke, and the postmodern age from Pierce to the present), he examines the past developments in philosophy in relation to the emergence of contemporary semiotics as the defining moment of postmodernism, thus providing a new vantage point from which to review and reinterpret intellectual culture today. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

John Deely has been a Professor of Philosophy since 1976 at Loras COllege in Dubuque, Iowa, and is now at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.
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Table of Contents

Aviso: Why Read this Book?
List of Tables and Illustrations
Reconocimientos
Preface: The Boundary of Time
1 Society and Civilization: The Prelude to Philosophy 3
Pt. 1 Ancient Philosophy: The Discovery of "Reality" 15
2 Philosophy as Physics 17
3 The Golden Age: Philosophy Expands Its Horizon 42
4 The Final Greek Centuries and the Overlap of Neoplatonism with Christianity 93
Pt. 2 The Latin Age: Philosophy of Being 159
5 The Geography of the Latin Age 161
6 The So-Called Dark Ages 212
7 Cresting a Wave: The Second Stage 251
8 The Fate of Sign in the Later Latin Age 364
9 Three Outcomes, Two Destinies 411
10 The Road Not Taken 447
Pt. 3 The Modern Period: The Way of Ideas 485
11 Beyond the Latin Umwelt: Science Comes of Age 487
12 The Founding Fathers: Rene Descartes and John Locke 511
13 Synthesis and Successors: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 540
14 Locke Again: The Scheme of Human Knowledge 590
Pt. 4 Postmodern Times: The Way of Signs 609
15 Charles Sanders Peirce and the Recovery of Signum 611
16 Semiology: Modernity's Attempt to Treat the Sign 669
17 At the Turn of the Twenty-first Century 689
18 Beyond Realism and Idealism: Resume and Envoi 735
Historically Layered References 743
Gloss on the References 835
Index 837
Timetable of Figures 1017
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