« On Russell's History of Western Philosophy (I); Russell on responsible Speech and his Criticism of Pragmatism | Main | Locke on the Art of Government/Leadership »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

David Duffy

I wondered if it follows the use of "Western Science". Ngram seems to show this from the 1840s onwards eg
"the most most brilliant triumph of British rule and of western science and civilization"

Eric Schliesser

Nice suggestion! It did not occur to me because Russell (partially) contrasts philosophy and science (and theology).
But when I look at the Ngram, western science does, indeed have non-negligible (but still modest presence) through 1880. Then 'western civ' takes off, and 'western science' doesn't.

Heath White

I have two purely speculative hypotheses about "western civilization".

First, perhaps this is the era when imperialism becomes reflective about itself as a project. What are we doing in these foreign parts? Bringing "civilization." What kind of civilization, since there are several? What unites Christianity, capitalism, science, and democracy? Not "European" civilization exactly, since America is included. How about "Western" civilization?

Second, in the US at least, around WWI, there was a significant reform of schools going on. The war was over the role of classics (Greek and Roman studies) in the curriculum. These were eventually sidelined in favor of e.g. US history and science classes. But classics scholars got an institutional lifeline in the form of "Western Civ" courses.

In either case (or both), arguably philosophy in this era thought of itself as a kind of intellectual "greatest hits album" for this Greek-Roman-Christian-scientific-democratic project. Hence, eventually, "Western philosophy."

The comments to this entry are closed.

Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


Blog powered by Typepad