Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC120-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2003
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

Eclecticism in philosophy is the construction of a system of thought by combining elements of the established systems of a previous age. The term ‘eclecticism’ is derived from the Greek verb eklegein / eklegesthai: to pick out, choose, or select. Diogenes Laertius (c. ad 300–50) attributes an ‘eclectic school’ to Potamo of Alexandria (c. early 3rd century ad) ‘who made a selection from the tenets of all the existing sects’. Many philosophers of the Greco-Roman period are known as ‘eclectics’, and one can find the entire period of philosophy from the second century bc to the third century ad referred to as an age of ‘eclecticism’. In such cases the term is often used pejoratively to designate a discordant collection of unoriginal ideas. More recently, however, the French philosopher Victor Cousin (1792–1867) expressed an optimistic view of eclecticism while using the term in reference to his own philosophy. Cousin viewed the entire history of thought as dominated by the two competing philosophies of empiricism (or sensualism) and idealism (or rationalism). The true philosophy would eliminate conflicting elements and combine the remaining truths within a single, unified system. Cousin’s eclecticism, with its strong historical orientation, was the predominant school of thought in France throughout most of the nineteenth century and was also of considerable influence in Brazil.

Citing this article:
Mcclellan, Chris. Eclecticism, 2003, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC120-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles