Eclecticism and syncretism

Periods of philosophical innovation are often followed by periods of consolidation (some would say, decline) when progress is sought by selecting features from different philosophers, regarded as opposed to one another, and combining them to form a unified whole.

Alternatively it may be claimed that the philosophers were not really opposed to each other in the first place, but when read properly may be seen to have been saying the same thing; a notable example of this is the neo-Platonist treatment of Plato and Aristotle.

Properly speaking, eclecticism is the former of these processes and syncretism the latter, but in practice the terms are used variously or even indifferently.

Also see: neo-platonism

R J Hankinson, ‘Galen’s Anatomy of the Soul’, Phronesis (1991); see p. 198, note 5

Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases. However, this is often without conventions or rules dictating how or which theories were combined.

It can sometimes seem inelegant or lacking in simplicity, and eclectics are sometimes criticized for lack of consistency in their thinking. It is, however, common in many fields of study. For example, most psychologists accept certain aspects of behaviorism, but do not attempt to use the theory to explain all aspects of human behavior.

Syncretism /ˈsɪŋkrətɪzəm/ is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture (known as eclecticism) as well as politics (syncretic politics).

One thought on “Eclecticism and syncretism

  1. Lanny Rasnake says:

    You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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