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Eclecticism

ECLECTICISM.

Ancient eclecticism, according to the second century c.e. doxographer Diogenes Laertius, began with Potamon of Alexandria, who broke with traditions of discipleship and doctrinal loyalty by making a selection from the tenets of all the existing sects, including Platonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, Epicureans, and Cynics. The Roman adaptation of eclectic attitudes was given legitimacy by the famous, often repeated motto of Horace (658 b.c.e.), "I am not bound over to swear as any master dictates." Eclecticism included women philosophers, especially (whatever her religion) the beautiful, intellectually peerless, and ill-fated Hypatia (c. 370415), whose death, according to Denis Diderot (17131784), marked also the end of ancient eclecticism. The Christian fathers also inclined to this view in their search for pagan anticipations of their wisdom, so that for example St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150between 211 and 215) celebrated the value of Greek and even "barbarian" philosophy according to this method, which he also called "eclectic" (eklektikon ). This approach, which was inadvertently comparative and necessarily historical, was a prototype of the more self-conscious ideas of eclecticism, German and then French, which emerged in modern times, especially in the search for a "new philosophy." Thus Petrus Ramus (Pierre de La Ramée; 15151572) claimed membership in the secta veritatis, "the sect not of Aristotle, of Plato, or of any man, but only of truth" (Aristotelicae Animadversiones, 1543; Aristotelian criticisms).

Modern Era

If the locus classicus of eclecticism was Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, the locus modernus was the Introduction to Stoic Philosophy (1604) of Justus Lipsius (15471606), who argued that the method of critical choosing or "election" was superior to the dogmas of particular schools and represented the true road to truth. From the second quarter of the seventeenth century the term and concept of eclectic philosophy gained currency, as did the associated idea of the liberty of philosophizing (libertas philosophandi ) that is, the freedom to choose between philosophical schools, or indeed a philosophy beyond the schools. Gerardus Johannes Vossius (Gerrit Jansz Vos; 15771649) served philosophical apprenticeships in various schoolsAristotelians, Platonists, Stoics, and Epicureansand concluded, "Clearly, I have become an eclectic." Later he defended eclecticism (secta electiva sive electrix ) as a permanent condition of philosophizing and urged, "How would it be in the future if we should be not Ionic philosophers, or Italians, Eleatics, Platonists, or Peripatetics, not Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics, or any other such sects, but all of these?" (De philosophia et philosophorum sectis, 1658; Philosophy and the schools of philosophy).

The recognized founder of the eclectic school (eclectica philosophia; Wahl-Philosophie [Selective philosophy]) in Germany was Christian Thomasius (16551728), for whom, as for Vossius, philosophy was a collective enterprise not reducible to the teaching of one author or separable from learned tradition and succession of teachers. "I call eclectic philosophy," Thomasius wrote in his Introductio ad philosophiam aulicam (Einleitung zur Hof-Philosophie [Introduction to court philosophy]) in 1688, "not what depends on the teaching of an individual or on the acceptance of the words of a master, but whatever can be known from the teaching and writing of any person on the basis not of authority but of convincing arguments." For Thomasius the key to understanding was the alliance between history and philosophy. "History and philosophy are the two eyes of wisdom," he argued. "If one is missing, then one has only half vision" (einäugy ).

Other adherents to eclecticism included J. C. Sturm, J. F. Buddeus, C. A. Heumann, Nicolas Gundling, J. G. Heineccius, Ephraim Gerhard, Arnold Wesenfeld, J. J. Brucker, and their students in many dissertations written in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in theology, mathematics, and medicine as well as philosophy. Eclecticism was a method of separating truth from opinion and falsehood, science from superstition, and so a process of intellectual enlightenment and human progress. As Heineccius concludes in his Elementa philosophiae rationalis et moralis (1756; Elements of rational and moral philosophy), "one should not seek truth by oneself, nor accept or reject everything written by ancients and moderns, and so no other method of philosophizing is more reasonable than the Eclectic Method."

Eclecticism was thus given new life in early modern times, appearing at the confluence of several intellectual movements: the revival of ancient and patristic learning, evangelical religious reform, the "liberty of philosophizing," and the adoption of critical history as the basis for understanding.

The most lasting consequence of eclectic philosophy was the emergence of a new discipline, the history of philosophy, beginning with Georg Horn and Thomas Stanley (History of Philosophy, 1655) and culminating in the first journal dedicated to the history of philosophy, the Acta Philosophorum by C. A. Heumann and the survey of J. J. Brucker (Historia critica philosophiae, 17421744; Critical history of philosophy), which set the canon for the modern history of philosophy and which was the basis for Diderot's entry in the French Encyclopédie.

Nineteenth Century

It was in the nineteenth century, however, that eclecticism achieved its greatest notoriety, especially under the leadership of Victor Cousin (17921867), who proposed "to select in all systems what appears to be true and good, and consequently everlasting,this, in a single word, is ECLECTICISM." And Cousin added, "If this philosophy is to be Eclectic, it must also be sustained by the history of philosophy." In post-Revolutionary France philosophy was in great disarray, and Cousin looked back to the great schools of the earlier generationFrench, Scottish, and German, represented respectively by Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (17151780), Thomas Reid (17101796), and Immanuel Kant (17241804). "It would be an interesting and instructive study," he proposed, "to examine the weaknesses of these schools by engaging one with another and by selecting their various merits in the context of a great eclecticism which would contain and surpass all three" (Lectures on the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, 1858).

Over the next three decades this doctrine was publicized and extended by Cousin's many scholarly publications, by his lectures, by his many international contacts and disciples, by translations of his works, and by his public career as minister of education and as virtually the "official philosopher" of the July Monarchy. Historian though he was, he attached little importance to German precedents in the belief that "eclecticism is a French doctrine and peculiar to us" (Premiers essais de philosophie, 1862, p. 280).

Among philosophers, in fact, eclecticism lost much of its credit in the nineteenth century, and indeed Cousin's major significance was as a scholar and a founder of the "history of ideas," which had been pioneered by Brucker, whom he honored as "the father of the history of philosophy," and Giambattista Vico (16681744), whose work he was instrumental in introducing to nineteenth-century readers. In the long term, indeed, the principal contribution of Cousin and his school, as of the earlier German eclectics, was not the establishment of a viable philosophical doctrine but the exploration of the modern field of intellectual history.

See also Aristotelianism ; Epicureanism ; Ideas, History of ; Platonism ; Stoicism .

bibliography

Hochstrasser, T. J. Natural Law Theories in the Early Enlightenment. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Kelley, Donald R. The Descent of Ideas: The History of Intellectual History. London: Ashgate, 2002.

. "Eclecticism and the History of Ideas." Journal of the History of Ideas 62 (2001): 577592.

Kelley, Donald R., ed. History and the Disciplines: The Reclassification of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 1997. See especially Martin Mulsow, "Gundling and Buddeus: Competing Models of the History of Philosophy," 103126, and Ulrich Johannes Schneider, "Eclecticism and the History of Philosophy," 83102.

Donald R. Kelley

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eclecticism (in philosophy)

eclecticism (Ĭklĕk´tĬsĬz´əm) [Gr. eklektikos=to choose], in philosophy, the selection of elements from different systems of thought, without regard to possible contradictions between the systems. Eclecticism differs from syncretism, which tries to combine various systems while resolving conflicts. Many Roman philosophers, especially Cicero, and the Neoplatonists were known for eclecticism. Eclecticism among Renaissance humanists, who drew from Christian and classical doctrines, was followed by a 19th-century revival, particularly with French philosopher Victor Cousin, who coined the term and applied it to his own system. Eclectics are frequently charged with being inconsistent, and the term is sometimes used pejoratively.

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eclecticism

eclecticism.
1. Design drawing freely on forms, motifs, and details selected from historical styles and different periods.

2. The practice of selecting from a wide range of sources what elements, styles, motifs, details, etc., that may appear to be sound, acceptable, functional, and beautiful, in order to create an architectural effect.

Bibliography

Porphyrios (1982)

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"eclecticism." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"eclecticism." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/eclecticism

eclecticism (in art)

eclecticism (Ĭklĕk´tĬsĬz´əm), art style in which features are borrowed from various styles. It was once applied to the Carracci, who incorporated elements from the Renaissance and classical traditions. Among the most influential advocates of eclecticism were Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Ruskin.

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eclecticism

eclecticism. Term frequently used to describe a composer's conscious use of styles alien to his nature, or from a bygone era. Also used pejoratively when applied to mus. in which the composer, thought to be lacking originality, has freely drawn on other models.

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"eclecticism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"eclecticism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/eclecticism