The period between Descartes and Hegel was the great age of metaphysical system-building. In the medieval period there were many gifted metaphysicians, but they did not think of themselves as creating a new system; rather they offered piecemeal improvements to a system already given by the teaching of the Church and the genius of Aristotle. Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, on the other hand, saw themselves as seeing out, for the first time, a complete system to harmonise all the fundamental truths that could be known. It cannot be said that any of them succeeded in this gigantic task; but there is much to be learnt from their heroic failures.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Western philosophy split into conflicting traditions on the European continent and in the anglophone world, one tradition adopted the medieval pattern and the other followed the lead of the early modern metaphysicians. In Germany and France, philosophers continued to see it as their task to create a new system that would supersede that of their predecessors. In England and the United States, most philosophers contented themselves with the attempt to clarify or amend particular elements within a framework given us by the work of natural scientists and the language of everyday language. But many philosophers have resisted being judged by either paradigm; and the best way to avoid being obsessed with either is a study of of philosophy’s history over the long term.
Anthony Kenny – A New History of Western Philosophy – Vol III – The Rise of Modern Philosophy, p. 211.