Unity and Variety in the Philosophy of Samuel Alexander

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Purdue University Press
Professional & Scholarly


Samuel Alexander, one of the leading speculative philosophers of the twentieth century and an originator of the school of process philosophy, undertook, throughout his mature life a sustained reflection on the ancient problem of unity and diversity, how the one and the many might be reconciled.


Prof. Michael A. Weinstein's major study of Alexander, in each stage of his philosophic career, attempted to relate unity and diversity in such widely different areas of thought as metaphysics, psychology, and philosophy of art.  In the process of exposing the development of Alexander's seminal ideas, Weinstein brings out those aspects of his thought that are most relevant to current concerns in the philosophic community, such as phenomenological description, philosophy of art, and the metaphysics of process.


One of Weinstein's major contributions is to show that the periods of Alexander's thought alternate between moments dominated by what he called the spirit of continuity and those ruled by the spirit of diversity.  Weinstein, who is the first scholar to analyze Alexander's early period, finds the origin of this structured dynamic in the primal existential awakening that Alexander had at the beginning of his philosophic life when he grasped concretely the inability of particulars to conform to any type.  Alexander's work is then interpreted most generally as a series of intelligibly ordered efforts to depict how the stubborn particularity and diversity of things might be unified.  Weinstein shows how Alexander ends his career with a philosophy of art and civilization that opens out towards such thinkers as Camus, Sartre, and Nietzche.  Alexander is revealed in Weinstein's work to be a representative thinker who bridged the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and whose ideas helped to shape many of our present perspectives.