The Faces of Reason: An Essay on Philosophy and Culture in English Canada, 1850-1950

By Leslie Armour; Elizabeth Trott | Go to book overview

NOTES FROM THE AUTHORS

PHILOSOPHY DOES and should, no doubt, arouse the passions as well as the intellect. But when it does, one is apt to be surprised. Philosophy is not really, however, composed of distant abstractions but of animating frameworks of ideas which give meaning to the structures they organize. To call attention to a body of philosophy which has its centre in a place and time is, therefore, very often at least, to evoke meanings which threaten the established understandings. To revive Canadian philosophy is, inevitably, to raise the possibility of the viability of a culture whose values in some respects clash with those of the cultures whose world views tend to dominate our affairs. Just because a different set of meanings is involved, such an intrusion may seem irrelevant and incomprehensible. But it may also seem threatening.

I first heard of the Canadian
idealists (principally of John Wat-
son) when I was an undergraduate
at the University of British Colum-
bia. But even then and there Cana-
dians were a distinct minority and
the books of Canadian philosophers
were not easy to come by. When I
arrived at the University of London
as a graduate student in 1952, I dis-
covered that Watson was not for-
gotten in England, though he was
mainly remembered as a Kant
scholar.
My own personal involvement in
doing research on Canadian
philosophy was initiated during the
course of my doctoral studies at the
University of Waterloo. I had re-
jected an offer of a place as a doc-
toral student at the London School
of Economics in order to do an ex-
tended study on theories of the
Absolute under the direction of a
Canadian scholar in my own coun-
try.
Over the years, I found and
read some works of Watson, and
learned more of Blewett, but other
interests supervened until 1969
when I returned from a sabbatical
leave in England. I found that my
Professor Leslie Armour, my
supervisor, first suggested to me
that I might include some thoughts
of Canadian philosophers in my
thesis on "Experience and the Abso-
lute." The idea was well-received by
some members of my committee,
but not by all. Nonetheless I did in

-xvii-

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