Minding the Modern

Thomas Pfau

Pfau argues in this study, that the loss of foundational concepts in classical and medieval Aristotelian philosophy caused a fateful separation between reason and will in European thought. He traces the evolution and eventual deterioration of key concepts of human agency – will, person, judgment, action – from antiquity through Scholasticism and on to eighteenth-century moral theory and its critical revision in the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Featuring extended critical discussions of Aristotle, Gnosticism, Augustine, Aquinas, Ockham, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hutcheson, Hume, Adam Smith, and Coleridge, this study contends that humanistic concepts these writers seek to elucidate acquire meaning and significance only inasmuch as we are prepared positively to engage (rather than historicize) their previous usages.