Metaphysics: the Problems of Knowledge and Existence

EVERY question we ask, every statement we make -- in fact, every activity we undertake, shows that we make suppositions and shows which ones they are. If we ask questions, we suppose that they can have answers. Our statements, we think, can be true, revealing, interesting, or attractive. We expect that the things we act with will suit our purposes, and we hope that our actions upon things will properly fit them.

We come by most of our suppositions through instruction, and through imitating the practices of our teachers in home, school, and community. If their instruction and practice are sound, our suppositions will most often be fulfilled. And most often we will leave them unexamined. Our suppositions remain ours, though, whether we study them or not.

The occasions upon which we are likely to study them arise when they fail in practice or conflict with one another, or when we find other men and other communities acting in ways strikingly different from our own. We may be led to wonder, for example, how we can both fear and love the same person, or why we act toward elders with respect when age is not respected by other men and other communities. If we were to examine just these suppositions, just the suppositions we recognize to fail, conflict and differ from those of others, we would settle our convictions piecemeal. We would be saying that certain particular things have just these characters and values, and that we have therefore to act toward them in certain special ways. Such piecemeal examinations generally serve our living well enough. But they are piecemeal, and they are provisional. With fresh failures, fresh conflicts and differences, perplexity and wonder arise again.

We can somewhat escape the cycle of provisional examinations by becoming dull, sophisticated, or provincial. But then we arbitrarily cut ourselves off from the world, refusing to notice or wonder at the failures, conflicts, and differences our suppositions

-98-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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