The Course of American Democratic Thought

By Ralph Henry Gabriel; Robert H. Walker | Go to book overview
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Chapter 32
RELATIVISM, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY, AND THE DEMOCRATIC FAITH

ON DECEMBER 16, 1954, the Committee of the House of Representatives, of which H. Carroll Reece was chairman, handed up to the House a report four hundred thirty-two pages in length of its investigation of tax-exempt foundations. Apparently its authors thought of it as a bomb. Like the explosion at Eniwetok some nine months earlier it had a fall-out. "Throughout the text of this report the scribe of the Committee said, "the names of certain individuals appear in a distinctive kind of type. This was to identify them as having been cited by the Attorney General of the United States or by various governmental agencies for associations or affiliations of a questionable character." There followed a fist of eighty- two names of citizens of the United States that included some of the most distinguished men working in the field of social thought. These were the fishermen who chanced to be within the Committee's radioactive zone.

Possessed of authority derived from the vast power vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives, the Committee initiated hearings and terminated them in mid-course. On the basis of testimony presented and of individual excursions of its staff into the massive literature of the social sciences the majority of the Committee (or what passed for one) loosed, among other activities, an attack upon the methods and attitudes that have achieved importance in the period of the Great Liberation before World War II. Labeling as empiricism the techniques of gathering facts and making inductions from them without regard to reconceived theories, the Committee questioned the desirability or support for undertakings of such a character. "This Committee wishes to make it dear," the Report read, "that it has not attacked, and does not attack, empiricism. To do so would be an absurdity. . . . It seems to this committee that

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