Three Ideals of Modern Philosophy

  • D. S. Clarke
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 96)


Modern philosophy set for itself the three ideals of simplicity, certainty, and linear comprehensiveness. These operated as regulative ideals guiding inquiry and philosophical expositions, but were not themselves justified by means of arguments, and seldom articulated in an explicit way. The starting point for philosophical investigations was to be restricted to a number of simple ideas or concepts about which we could attain certainty. This certainty was thought to guarantee truth in what we say with or about these simple elements. It was thus a certainty accompanied by infallibility. On the basis of this foundation, more complex ideas or propositions were to be analyzed and understood, and a comprehensive system constructed in a linear form that progressed from the relatively simple and certain to the increasingly complex. Eventually, the most controversial issues debated by philosophers, those of metaphysics, would be resolved. What we describe as “philosophic understanding” was regarded as the result of such analysis and resolution on the basis of the simple and certain foundation. These three ideals can be regarded as being pursued, albeit in very different ways, in Descartes’s Meditations, Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, and Husserl’s Logical Investigations. In less explicit form they dominate many of the major philosophic writings from the 17th century into the present, with differences to be found principally in the consistency and thoroughness with which they were pursued.


Complex Idea Modern Philosophy Complex Sentence Atomic Sentence Compositional Semantic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. S. Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

Personalised recommendations