The World as Active Power

Studies in the History of European Reason


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What is the ultimate explanatory factor for the existence of the world, for all its changing phenomena and the enduring order found in it? In the history of Western thought, we can find a longstanding philosophical tendency to answer this question in terms of power: the universe is understood as an ordered whole produced by a rational power, that is, by the power of reason. That power is thought to be active in the sense of being capable of existing and acting ‘in itself’ as an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable cause of the world.

The essays in this collection discuss the idea of active power in the world-explanations of Plato, the Stoics, Neoplatonism, early and late medieval scholasticism, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer.

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Juhani Pietarinen, Ph.D. (1972) in Philosophy, University of Helsinki, is Professor Emeritus of Practical Philosophy at the University of Turku. He is the coeditor of Perspectives on Human Conduct (1988), Genes and Morality (1999) and Philosophy and Biodiversity (2004), and the author of various articles on ethics and history of philosophy.

Valtteri Viljanen, Ph.D. (2007) in Philosophy, University of Turku, is Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Turku. He is the author of Spinoza's Dynamics of Being: The Concept of Power and its Role in Spinoza's Metaphysics (2007) and of various articles on history of philosophy, especially on Spinoza.
Introduction, Juhani Pietarinen and Valtteri Viljanen

1. Plato’s Power Dualism, Juhani Pietarinen
2. The Active Principle in Stoic Philosophy, Håvard Løkke
3. Plotinus on Act and Power, Eyjólfur Kjalar Emilsson
4. Power and Activity in Early Medieval Thought, Tomas Ekenberg
5. Power and Possibility in Thomas Aquinas, Andreas Schmid
6. Causal Power in Descartes’s Mind-Body Union, Juhani Pietarinen
7. De novo creat: Descartes on Action, Interaction, and Continuous Creation, Timo Kajamies
8. Motion and Reason: Hobbes’s Difficulties with the Idea of Active Power, Juhani Pietarinen
9. Spinoza’s Actualist Model of Power, Valtteri Viljanen
10. Leibniz on Force, Activity, and Passivity, Arto Repo and Valtteri Viljanen
11. Kant on Force and Activity, Hemmo Laiho and Arto Repo
12. Differences that are None. Hegel’s Theory of Force in the Phenomenology of Spirit, Andreas Schmidt
13. Schopenhauer’s Twofold Dynamism, Valtteri Viljanen

All those interested in Western intellectual history, in particular in Plato’s influence on its development, in medieval modal theory, in early modern rationalists, and in nineteenth-century German philosophy.
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