If Western Philosophy is anything, it is the distrust of the apparent, conventional opinion and commonly held opinion that exists without critical reflection – this is what one takes away from Socrates if one ignores his more ludicrous aspects which are to be found even in the earlier Platonic works. This essence exists in the works of the great minds of philosophies both false and verified by modern scientific understanding and data. But I would contend that the philosophers that we’ve been told are the corner stone of modern European Philosophy simply aren’t.
Rene Descartes is claimed by many to be the beginning figure in Modern Philosophy. Despite his more ludicrous claims and lines of reasoning, he began a noble philosophic project by (at-least legitimately for a period in his works) by endeavoring to know what he could claim to know with complete certainty, doing so with rigorous scrutiny. This is not the starting point of either Plato or Aristotle. Plato has the Allegory of the Cave, but ultimately he uses it not to promote a skeptical mindset but to promote his own views of Platonic Forms; claiming to be able to apprehend and know reality not only through pure reasoning, but that we all have access to this knowledge at the moment of if not before our births. Aristotle is loosely speaking an Empiricist, but he takes wild leaps of reasoning about the nature and existence of God, about the reproductive mechanics and numerous other things.
From Descartes, other quasi-scientific minded philosophers pursued roughly speaking Descartes’ line of reasoning, but were more wise than he in not claiming that all that is not known or believed in (since any claim of certainty in the absolute is exactly that – a belief held at-least in some regard as an article of faith) must be believed to be so absolutely and without any doubt. The entire scientific project is based on doubt as much as curiosity, the two complimenting the other like saliva compliments the taste buds. Some may think otherwise, with an understanding that those who are curious wish to know and will digest material, while doubt is the scrutiny of material and therefore is more of a gag reflex – but this is exactly right. Curiosity is not the desire to be told what is true; curiosity is the critical faculty yearning to know the truth to the extent that a human being is capable of possessing it. Doubt makes one gag the sickly stuff one is being subjected to by the unreflective and the ideologically or economically self-interested. It is that faculty that the Skeptics claim all begin with but becomes satiated through the medication of dogma rather than allow to be fully-functioning and allow the individual to expand both intellectually and psychologically; ideology is the death of the wandering soul, it is the road map that makes one blind to all surrounding possibilities, making the soul not only ignorant of the forest but of himself.
Kant, Hume, Nietzsche and Marx (among others) all function with either a form of Skepticism or Cynicism if not both. It is this wisdom that the Europeans have token from the Greeks, though there are chunks of Aristotle and even Plato occasionally that deserve appreciation and, yes, did carry-through to the Europeans. However The Medieval philosophers were indeed greatly influenced by the two Greeks, Aquinas called Aristotle “The Philosopher” and Hippo of lksfdajljksfd attempted to conjoin Platonism and Christianity who in some ways seem ready bed-fellows. However we all know quite-well that medieval philosophy is a rare matter of focus today and a modern Philosophy course will go straight from Plato and Aristotle to Rene Descartes. What the Medieval thinkers had in zealousness they lacked in originality and scientific scrutiny.
The misunderstanding that Plato and Aristotle still ground modern philosophy today comes from a misunderstanding in the essence of chronology. Simply because the medieval thinkers preceded the thinkers of the Enlightenment, does not mean that they follow in the same vein or one caused the other, much like bread does not cause toast though it was a material that came before it. This is a poor analogy, because bread is required for toast while Medieval thinking was not necessary for the Enlightenment, and I mean to demonstrate that the Enlightenment was what it was (is defined as it is) because of some unique liveliness of the mind that had nothing to do with what happen to come before it chronologically. Just as toasts crispness is not a confirmation of but a denial of white bread. Once again being poetic and loose metaphorically.
Sickness precedes health and vice-versa, but neither is an essential characteristic in describing the qualities and existence of the other. One is in-a-sense making a flaw of inductive logic to say that the present is essentially defined by the known past simply because the past precedes the future. Reality is complicated and full of intertwining factors, and in regards to human nature, there are so many aspects to it that it is foolish to say an aspect of one field of it (e.g. philosophy) is defined exclusively by the past relations of parts of philosophy prior to the present. The discoveries of science after all, have just as much and likely more influence on a modern philosopher than the works of Plato, Aristotle and the scholastics combined; Newton being that genius and pinnacle thinker who influenced and inspired human existence and thought more-so than all those who came before him. Though they (that came before him) may have been necessary for his existence materially (we will never know, but in a sense is safe to assume considering how much of our history is constituted in billions of micro and macro material and social of the past.) but not rationally. Just as the murder of the dinosaurs was essential to our existence in a materialist sense, but it fails to flow from reasoning that reptiles dying means the existence of apes, or though a child’s father being a murderer may be an essential material fact in the child later being a doctor, it no where seems rational to assume or is verified by data that children who have murderers for fathers are likely to take on careers in the medical field.